A U.S district court judge ruled Tuesday that the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies acted legally when it created a “blacklist” labeling certain websites as unreliable for academic use.
The judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Turkish Coalition of America, whose website appeared on the list. The group sued the University for violating its freedom of speech and on counts of defamation and due process.
In his ruling, Judge Donovan Frank said the Supreme Court has “recognized the freedom of a university to make its own judgments as to education,” including the right to decide “on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught and who may be admitted to study.”
University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said the University is “very pleased” with the decision.
“Whenever you are involved in federal litigation, you hope for the best, and today our position was completely vindicated,” he said.
The Turkish Coalition’s site was originally listed as unreliable because of its views on the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish government denies that the killing of Armenians in eastern Turkey that began in 1915 should be classified as genocide. About 20 countries worldwide have recognized the killings as genocide.
The original warning above the list said “students should not use these sites because of  denial,  support by an unknown organization, or  contents that are a strange mixture of fact and opinion.”
Tuesday’s ruling said that the CHGS had the right to deem the killings genocide.
Larry Frost, one of the attorneys representing TCA, said the judge’s decision would have to be reviewed before the group decides whether it will take further legal action like appealing.
When both sides met in court back in early February, the University argued that vetting research was one of the main roles of academics.
In addition to asserting the academic freedom of the University, Frank said the plaintiffs were unable to prove that they suffered any injury because of the center’s decision to place the website on a “blacklist.”
“This confirms that the University and its faculty can express controversial perspectives and opinions without being subject to legal liability,” Rotenberg said. “This case is not just about what happened at the U of M — the case has garnered national and international attention.”