Robert Shibley says UNC could improve and better promote free speech

As UNC celebrated it’s second annual First Amendment Day, a freedom of speech advocate said the University could better-promote free speech.

At a presentation titled “Free at Carolina,” Robert Shibley, vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said UNC is a “yellow light” school because many of its policies are too vague and may be interpreted wrongly, such as the sexual harassment code or the Honor Code.

The foundation has distributed ratings for 400 schools based on their freedom of speech codes.

Shibley said there are many changes the administration can make to improve its FIRE rating to a green light — and help students to feel more free at UNC.

Some of the positive codes UNC has include free speech anytime in the Pit or around campus because many other schools only offer specific “free speech zones,” he said.

But some officials said efforts are strong to protect First Amendment rights at UNC.

Jenna Robinson, spokeswoman for the Raleigh-based John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said the University is open to the entire spectrum of views, which is important in developing an educated opinion.

“We try to bring speakers to campus that may not normally be heard,” Robinson said, and mentioned Karl Rove’s appearance.

But some student organizations said they feel they struggle to be heard.

“We’ve tried to get free speech but we’ve been limited,” said Stephanie Davis, president of the College Libertarians. “A lot of people don’t want to hear from a third party.”

Shibley said that those organizations that are struggling should continue to try until they are heard.

“At a place like UNC there’s always room,” he said.

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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