UNC Free Speech Policy Given Green Light

Nov 2, 2017

Credit University of North Carolina

Updated 10:38 a.m. | Nov. 3, 2017

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors is moving ahead with a controversial free speech policy for its sixteen college campuses. It calls for the discipline of students who 'substantially disrupt' others' first amendment rights.  

But some students and faculty worry the new rules will be applied unfairly. Gabriel Luzo, chair of the UNC faculty assembly, spoke before a Board of Governors committee unanimously voted to approve the policy on Thursday.

“Does yelling constitute heckling, or does it involve violence...that is not clear,” he said. “The implications may be that heckling might be called violence as well. So the language remains unclear.”

Critics of the policy have said the term ‘substantial disruption’ can be interpreted in very different ways, and could be used to discipline student protesters exercising their right to free speech.

But Lugo also said on Thursday that the faculty assembly was happy with certain changes made to the policy, including a section allowing individual campuses to determine sanctions for violations. A previous version of the policy included a set framework for disciplining students.

The board was directed to create the free speech policy by Republican state legislators who see the need to 'restore' free speech at North Carolina’s universities. The move follows a wave of criticism by conservatives across the country who say college campuses have become hostile to their free expression.

The full board will consider the free speech policy in December before the policy can be implemented.