Even as our local universities are being rated among the top in the world (https://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/news/2017/10/24/duke-unc-rank-among-best-global-universities.html) the battle continues between the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) and students and faculty to protect the right to civil free speech. In the latest twist, the BoG is drawing up rules to give themselves power to sanction and even expel students accused of disrupting others’ free speech.

“The bill calls for the creation of a uniform system for punishing any student, faculty or staff member who “substantially disrupts the functioning of the constituent institution or substantially interferes with the protected free expression rights of others, including protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in and listen to expressive activity when the expressive activity has been scheduled pursuant to this policy or is located in a nonpublic forum.”

“As it is written right now, anything that is interpreted as a ‘substantial and material disruption’ could be a violation,” Birdsong (of the ACLU) said. “That interpretation can be very different if you’re a protester, a university official or a law enforcement official.”

Read the full details here. http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/10/24/civil-liberties-advocates-wary-campus-free-speech-bill-consideration-unc-board-governors/

Meanwhile in Washington DC, Richard Cohen, President of the Southern Poverty Law Center, spoke to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about the importance of allowing universities to respect both the first and the fourteenth amendment.

“College presidents need not be neutral.   They can and should speak out in support of the First Amendment because it’s among our nation’s highest values.   Just as importantly, college presidents should speak out in support of the values of the 14th Amendment – to distance the university from racism – and to assure students who may feel threatened that the university is committed to maintaining an inclusive environment.  Indeed, every prominent person in public life, starting with the president, should speak out in support of these same values.”

The UNC BOG should take note!


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