Supreme Court Denies Review of Virginia Tech Bias-Reporting Program



The US Supreme Court has declined to review a now-defunct program at Virginia Tech that allowed students to anonymously report instances of bias. The program was disbanded in 2023 and the Supreme Court declared the case moot, but similar programs at other universities have faced legal challenges. Conservative justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. expressed frustration with the decision, highlighting that First Amendment rights on college campuses remain a contentious issue.

The Supreme Court Declines to Review Virginia Tech’s Defunct Program

The Supreme Court has chosen not to review a now-defunct program at Virginia Tech which allowed students to report allegations of biased behavior anonymously, causing frustration among the court’s conservative justices. Virginia Tech discontinued the program in 2023 following the departure of the dean who instituted it.

Reactions and Consequences of the Anti-bias Program

Due to the program’s discontinuation, the Supreme Court declared the case moot. Nevertheless, debates over similar anti-bias programs continue in other universities across the nation. Critics argue such programs hamper free speech. Justice Clarence Thomas voiced his dissent from the Supreme Court’s decision.

Challenging University Bias-Reporting Policies

The case was one of nine filed by advocacy group Speech First, which challenges university bias-reporting policies on behalf of conservative students. The Virginia Tech bias program was developed in 2018 by the then-dean of students, with the intent of making the reporting process efficient and easy to track.

Claims and Counter-Claims

Despite the team having no disciplinary power, Speech First argued that the policy made students hesitant to express conservative views. The group, however, failed to provide evidence of anyone being disciplined or threatened with discipline by the bias team.

Court of Appeals Decision

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit concluded last year that Speech First lacked standing to challenge the policy, citing the First Amendment’s protection of efforts to promote civility on college campuses. Speech First has succeeded in challenging university anti-discrimination policies in three other appellate courts.

An Absence of Facts

Brian Soucek, a law professor at the University of California at Davis, pointed out that none of the litigation involved a disputed intervention by a bias-reporting team, stating instead that judges were basing their standing decisions on their own views about the speech climate on campuses.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, a liberal member of the Supreme Court, also dissented, stating that the court should have denied the petition to reconsider the ruling from the 4th Circuit because the challengers had not made a compelling case, instead of declaring it moot due to the policy change.

Although disappointed that the Supreme Court did not hear the case, Speech First’s Executive Director Cherise Trump took credit for ending Virginia Tech’s bias-reporting policy and pledged to continue defending students’ right to free speech countrywide.

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