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Noah Feldman

Campus Dissidents Win in Court While Losing

Beware, university administrators, of punishing expressions of political views.
What free speech looks like.

What free speech looks like.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In an important decision on the rights of campus dissidents, a U.S. appeals court has held that free speech protections won’t excuse acts of harassment. But it also held that a student who has been disciplined can sue the university if the punishment was for expressing political views.

The two parts of the ruling last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit cut in opposite directions. The first will encourage administrators; the second will hearten student activists. But the more important win is for the activists, who can get a day in court after being disciplined under university procedures that are often opaque.