Students and faculty alike are increasingly subjected to a repressive environment on college campuses.  Some polls have indicated that as many as 80 percent of college students self-censor on campuses, and a further 66 percent say that it is okay to silence a speaker by shouting them down.

After Shawnee State University censured one professor for misgendering a trans student, he took his case to court and won big in a significant victory for free speech on college campuses.

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“A public university in Ohio will pay $400,000 in damages and attorney fees after punishing a professor for declining a male student’s demand to be referred to as a female.

Nick Meriwether, a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University, responded to a male student’s question during a January 2018 political philosophy class by saying “Yes, sir.” When the class ended, the student identified to the professor as transgender, and demanded to be referred to as a woman in the future, along with “feminine titles and pronouns,” according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the professor in court. Doing so, Meriwether maintained, would have violated his convictions as a Christian.

Meriwether didn’t agree to the student’s request, and court documents state that the student became belligerent and told the professor that he would be fired.

Shawnee State University would then place a written warning in Meriwether’s personnel file, which stated that “further corrective actions” would be taken if a similar incident occurred.

The professor sued Shawnee State University, claiming that it violated his “right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment.”

The lawsuit was initially dismissed after the Alliance Defending Freedom filed it, but in March of 2021, the U.S Court of Appeals in the 6th circuit reversed the dismissal and allowed the lawsuit to move forward.

The professor initially attempted to compromise with the student, saying he would call them by their preferred name, but the student declined his offer.

“Dr. Meriwether rightly defended his freedom to speak and stay silent and not conform to the university’s demand for uniformity of thought. We commend the university for ultimately agreeing to do the right thing, in keeping with its reason for existence as a marketplace of ideas,” Said Tyson Langhofer, Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom.

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