MINNEAPOLIS, MN. –The U.S Court of Appeals for the Eight District Court ruled in favor of the University of Minnesota on February 5th, in a closely watched case involving First Amendment and academic freedom claims, the university reported.
The plaintiff in the case, the Turkish Coalition of America, claimed that statements on a university department website that suggested the Turkish Coalition’s information about the Armenian Genocide was “unreliable” violated its free speech and were defamatory. A university student also allegedly feared he would be subjected to academic reprisals if he used information from the organization’s website in his own work.
The Federal District Court had previously granted the claims, based principally upon its finding that the university’s website contained statements of faculty scholarly opinion and critique that were protected by the doctrine of academic freedom.
The Court of Appeals, affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims. It found the Turkish Coalition free speech claim failed because it could not show it had suffered any restrictions on its speech activities.
The Court of Appeals also found that the Turkish Coalition’s defamation claimed failed because the university’s faculty’s statements were either true of were statements of opinion, which cannot support a defamation claim.
The Student Could Not Prove His Case
The Court of Appeals also found the student had no standing to bring any claims because he could not show he suffered any injury.
The case has been watched closely by scholars around the United States, and the world because of its implications for principles of academic freedom.
University of Minnesota General Counsel, Mark Rotenberg, stated. “Today’s federal court decision confirm the right of universities and their faculty to offer scholarly criticism and critique on websites without fear of legal exposure. This protection is especially important when the scholarly opinions expressed by the faculty are controversial. We are very pleased to have successfully defended this important academic interest.”