Opinion: Professors should be able to speak out

In this edition, we ran an article about professors speaking out.

The story discusses how there’s tension between UNC professors and the UNC administration about how political they can be. We believe their ability to freely express their political views is important and beneficial to the students at this school.

The professors in that article are among the many who have largely taken to outlets that aren’t UNC to express their opinions, writing editorials for the News & Observer or letters to the editor in this (independent) newspaper.

The School of Media and Journalism honors First Amendment Day every year with a day of panels discussing the amendment, placing a strong emphasis on free speech. It would be hypocritical to claim we celebrate what this amendment stands for while simultaneously trying to water down how our employees express their political views.

UNC has a long history of being a school that’s socially aware with students who are willing to stand up for what they believe in. Part of this is because of the faculty we learn from.

A major complaint people make about this generation of college students is that we’re too coddled. They say we can’t handle differing viewpoints.

But if we’re in a course about the American judicial system with a professor whom we vehemently disagree with, then it’s an opportunity for us to learn how to debate issues while still being respectful.

Professors shouldn’t shut down students’ political views that differ from theirs and, for the most part, they don’t. When it comes to the few who do, it should be the responsibility of the students to take action and speak with said professors about the issue. If that fails, then the chancellor or vice chancellor should get involved. Either way, the few who don’t respect their students’ beliefs shouldn’t set the standard for how all professors express themselves politically.

One of the great things about UNC is the renowned faculty it brings in. If potential professors feel they won’t have a voice, they won’t come here or, God forbid, will go to the school eight miles down the road.

Above all else, professors are people too. House Bill 2 and anti-immigration rhetoric, amongst other issues, have affected professors at this school outside of the classroom. They should be able to stand up for themselves and their families without having to fear if it will cost them their jobs. And if Margaret Spellings gets to write an op-ed in the Washington Post about her political qualms, then our professors should feel just as, if not more, comfortable with expressing their views. 

Thanks for reading.

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