Since 1795, students of the University of North Carolina have aggressively used First Amendment rights and frequently petitioned our school for redress of grievances.
And our unique public university perspective on state action and prior restraint has often encouraged debate on what exactly qualifies as the abridgement of speech on our campus.
The ongoing Youth for Western Civilization debacle has shed more light on the subject.
We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly as this issue has run its course.
But perhaps the best part of it all was the civil discussion last Thursday between Nikhil Patel and Haley Koch. Though they “agreed to disagree” on the issue of the abridgement of speech, the free flow of ideas allowed the audience to choose for itself whose argument was strongest.
It is in precisely this manner that the marketplace of ideas is allowed to flourish. After all, that is what a liberal arts university is all about — learning how to discover the truth.
Lessons in free speech can be hard to learn.
After all, many of us have disagreed with two conservative campus speakers, former U.S. Reps. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Virgil Goode, R-Va.
But no one can legally deny these people the right to speak at UNC.
It is best for ideas to be heard and discussed.
As Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, lectured last Thursday, it is best to invite people with whom we disagree to campus and force them to argue their side.
It often shows how weak their positions truly are.
It is not our job to choose what political speech can or cannot be heard on campus.
We cannot forget the dark days of the 1963 Speaker Ban Law, when a conservative state general assembly forbade communists and those supporting the overthrow of the government from speaking on campus.
It was the efforts of then-student leaders — who sued the school and won — that ensured we can discuss controversial issues on campus today.
There are ideas we like and ideas with which we vehemently disagree. But at our great University, these ideas become lessons of tolerance, patience and, ultimately, lessons in the freedom to decide for ourselves.
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