North Carolina lawmakers have an opportunity to take action to ensure public universities will be safe spaces for public debate and free speech.
On the calendar of the House of Representatives today is House Bill 527, Restore/Preserve Free Speech.
It is basically a commonsense outline of how freedom of debate functions on campus.
For instance, a few key clauses of the bill include:
(1) The primary function of each constituent institution is the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge by means of research, teaching, discussion, and debate. To fulfill this function, the constituent institution must strive to ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and free expression.
(2) It is not the proper role of any constituent institution to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment, including, without limitation, ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.
(3) The constituent institution may not take action, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day in such a way as to require students, faculty, or administrators to publicly express a given view of social policy.
The bill continues, but it list only commonplace understandings of what free speech is. There should never have been a need for such a bill; it never should have occurred to anyone that this was needed.
Sadly, it is. Free speech is under assault across the nation, and perhaps most of all on college campuses.
That includes right here. UNC Wilmington professor and pundit Mike Adams recently noted:
“The need for HB 527 is clear given that only one UNC campus, UNC-Chapel Hill, has been rated by the non-partisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as a green-light school. Green light schools are those universities with no policies that violate the First Amendment. Every university in America should be a green light university. Regrettably, there are less than two-dozen in the entire nation.
“An astounding 11 campuses in the UNC system have been designated by FIRE as yellow light schools. Schools ranked as yellow light have at least one policy that is sufficiently vague that it could be used to quash First Amendment protected speech. The remaining four UNC campuses were designated as red light, which means they have at least one policy that clearly and substantially impairs free speech.”