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Atlantic author advocates campus free speech

Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), holds a talk discussing the lack of free speech permitted on American college campuses.
Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), holds a talk discussing the lack of free speech permitted on American college campuses.

Lukianoff, famous for co-writing “The Coddling of the American Mind” for The Atlantic, spoke to a group of students in the Student Union Thursday about the importance of challenging limitations to free speech.

“Almost every time the campus speech code has been challenged at a public university, it has been shot down by a court of law,” he said.

Lukianoff is the CEO and president for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which he said has won all of their lawsuits against campuses violating freedom of speech.

He was invited to campus as part of the 50th anniversary of UNC’s Speaker Ban Law Speaker Series, in a lecture titled “Freedom from Speech.”

“Our hope was to bring someone who can talk about examples from other schools as to how free speech issues have been handled,” said Diana Dayal, director of state and external affairs for student government and one of the organizers of the series.

The series, organized by student government and the Campus Y, invites guest lecturers to promote conversation about freedom of speech in higher education.

The Speaker Ban Law was passed by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963 and prohibited known communists from giving speeches at public universities.

Vishal Reddy, outgoing co-president of the Campus Y and one of the organizers of the series, who is also a member of The Daily Tar Heel’s editorial board, said UNC’s reaction to the law has led the University to become a bastion of free speech.

“The UNC student body president partnered up with the UNC-system president, Bill Friday at the time, to actually put on a lawsuit against the school, and they ended up winning in court,” he said.

Lukianoff said UNC’s freedom of speech policies were acceptable, but he would like them to pass the Chicago statement — a firm commitment to freedom of expression on college campuses.

“I think it’s just a reaffirmation of a lot of the things that they already claim to believe, and it’s a way to show solidarity with professors and with the general goals of academic freedom,” he said.

Lukianoff accepted questions from the audience following the lecture, which focused on administrative policies and neutrality, academic freedom, student-athlete exceptions and speech codes historically being used to target minority populations.

Jessica Allen, a UNC student who attended the event, agreed with Lukianoff’s overall message.

“By limiting what we experience on a college campus, we no longer have justified reasons for believing what we do,” she said.

Ben Jealous, a former president and CEO of the NAACP, will be speaking as part of the speaker series Monday in Memorial Hall. The lecture is titled “The Forgotten Origins and Consequences of Race in America.”

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