Speech First, Inc. v. Shrum

From January 2023 to April 2024
Oklahoma State University (Public college or university)
Stillwater, OK

Identity of Speakers

  • Speech First

    College free speech advocacy organization with connections to Koch and Heritage Foundations.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Not Clear
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration changed university policy as a consequence
  • Incident Status:
  • Was Speech Code incident


Speech First filed suit against Oklahoma State University challenging three of its speech policies that the organization claimed were designed to chill and silence student speech.  Among the polices at issue is the school’s bias-incidents policy that allowed students to file reports against fellow students for their “bias” and included speech both on and off campus, as well as on social media.  The lawsuit also challenged OSU’s Harassment Policy, which the suit described as “so vague that it can easily be applied to a wide swath of protected speech.”  The third policy challenged was OSU’s Computer Policy, which forbid students from using their email accounts for what Speech First deemed “protected political speech.”

An Oklahoma District Court dismissed the lawsuit in April, 2023 on the basis that Speech First lacked standing because it failed to name the three anonymous students on behalf of whom it sued.

In May, 2023, Speech First appealed the lower court ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.  In February, 2024 the Tenth Circuit ruled in favor of Speech First on the issue of standing, reversing and remanding the issue back to the US District Court.  Speech First was joined in amicus by disparate groups such as the  American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the US Chamber of Commerce,, Young America’s Foundation, Manhattan Institute, and the Independent Women’s Law Center.

In the aftermath of Tenth Circuit ruling, the two parties settled in April of 2024.  As part of the settlement, OSU agreed to end and disband their Bias Response Team, end their harassment policy, change their computer policy, and allowed for Speech First to rewrite the OSU harassment policy.  OSU also agreed to pay $18,000 in attorney’s fees to Speech First.