OU Asks For More Time To Respond To Free Speech Lawsuit

By
Steve Robb - Athens Messenger staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Fri, Aug 22, 2014 12:28 pm

Ohio University has asked a federal court for more time to respond to a lawsuit, telling the court that negotiations are taking place to try to resolve the case.

The lawsuit was filed last month by OU student Isaac Smith, who is associate director of Students Defending Students, a group that assists students through the university judicial process. OU administrators were named as defendants, including President Roderick McDavis.

In the case, Smith claims that OU administrators told group members to stop wearing T-shirts with the slogan “We get you off for free,” and that members complied for fear that disciplinary action would be taken. The lawsuit, one of four filed at universities in coordination with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, asks the federal court to declare OU’s speech codes unconstitutional and seeks an injunction against their enforcement.

After the lawsuit was filed, OU issued a statement saying administrators discussed the shirts with the students, but did not order them to stop wearing the shirts and did not threaten or take any disciplinary action. The statement said that freedom of speech and expression are “core values” of the university.

Earlier this week the university asked the court for more time to respond to the lawsuit, telling the court that:

-The parties are attempting to “informally resolve this matter.”

-The university hopes that extending the deadline will allow the parties to continue negotiating, saving legal expenses and judicial resources if the case can be resolved.

-Extending the Sept. 8 deadline to Oct. 24 would give the OU Board of Trustees an opportunity to confer about resolution of the matter. The trustees are scheduled to meet Oct. 17.

The request for more time was not opposed by Smith, and on Wednesday it was granted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Abel.

An attorney representing Smith did not immediately return a phone message Thursday from The Messenger.

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