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Chicago State University Settles First Amendment Lawsuit for $650,000

Two Chicago State University professors who claimed they were threatened by administration members over critical blog posts have settled their First Amendment lawsuit for $650,000.

Professors Phillip Beverly and Robert Bionaz, who filed the lawsuit in 2014, alleged the university of threatening them with legal action as a result of their blog the CSU Faculty Voice, which was highly critical of its administration due to “perceived corruption and incompetence.”

The university has also agreed to make amendments to its computer usage and cyberbullying policies that were challenged in the suit.

“Four-plus years of mounting legal expenses for a school with scarce resources; four-plus years of scandal and public ridicule for a school whose reputation can afford neither,” professor Bionaz said.

“The conclusion of this action represents a repudiation of the Watson administration’s egregious efforts to stifle speech on the Chicago State campus.”

The lawsuit was filed as a part of the non-profit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. FIRE is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the rights of students and faculty members at U.S. colleges and universities.

Earlier, the university had alleged the professors of infringing upon the university’s trademarks and not following the “high standards of civility and professionalism [that] are central tenants [sic] of the University’s values.”

“This case should remind administrators of state universities they are not a law unto themselves and must obey constitutional commands,” Robert Corn-Revere, the attorney representing the professors said. “Universities can only serve as a true marketplace of ideas when preserving and protecting the First Amendment is a core part of their mission.”

 

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