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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC evaluated on freedom of speech

Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, was the keynote speaker for the University’s events Tuesday.

FIRE classifies universities as red, yellow, or green light schools depending on how restrictive the schools’ speech codes are.

“No matter how much we’ve done, no matter how many defeats, and at this point we’re talking about dozens of defeats for university speech codes, 58.6 (percent) of universities maintain what we call red light speech codes,” Lukianoff said.

Lukianoff said FIRE has been working with University administrators to help UNC’s speech code earn a rare green light rating.

“UNC is this close to having a green light code and the only word in this entire policy that gives us any concern is it includes ‘any behavior that disparages.’ That’s too vague, that’s too broad, if that were challenged in a court of law, we don’t think that one word would hold up,” he said.

This marks a change from December 2013, when Lukianoff included UNC on his list of the 10 worst schools for freedom of speech for the Huffington Post.

Lukianoff’s issue was not UNC’s speech code in general but a particular case. In March 2013, then-sophomore Landen Gambill was tried by Honor Court for disruptive or intimidating behavior against her ex-boyfriend, whom she had publicly accused of rape.

“Last year, because of the Gambill case, I put UNC on there. That being said, you might be the only school in history to go from being on that list to being a green light school in the course of one year,” he said.

Lukianoff provided a number of examples of colleges around the country with dangerously limiting speech codes.

“I want people to be sort of sick of hearing examples of violations of speech on college campuses. Sort of ‘welcome to my world,’” he said.

Journalism professor Michael Hoefges gave his media law class extra credit for attending the lecture.

“Basically it’s important for everybody to understand their free expression rights, and why it’s important that there are limitations on government interfering with our rights to free expression,” he said.

Senior Marquis Emmerson said events like the pro-life protests in Polk Place in March show UNC protects free speech well.

“I thought it was interesting how he showcased the different free speech restrictions on campus all over the country,” he said. “I just thought about how not free speech is on college campuses.”

Lukianoff quoted the opinion from the 1957 case Sweezy v. New Hampshire, a Supreme Court case that protected speech supporting communism on campuses.

“They make a point about what universities are supposed to be. And they say, also in dramatic language, ‘teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study, and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding. Otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.’”

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