UNC Board of Governors Policy Protects Campus Free Speech

Policy Uses State Statutes to Determine Disruptive Behavior

University - College - Free Speech Zone

At a December meeting of the UNC Board of Governors, a policy to protect free speech was adopted.

The Protect Free Speech and Free Expression policy was the product of several months of work by the UNC Board of Governor’s Governance committee. The committee received input from the Association of Student Governments, the Staff Assembly, and the Faculty Assembly before submitting a draft proposal in November.

Here is the meat of the policy:

Students, staff and faculty shall be permitted to assemble and engage in spontaneous expressive activity as long as such activity is lawful and does not materially and substantially disrupt the functioning of the constituent institution, subject to the requirements of this policy. A “material and substantial disruption” encompasses any or all of the following:

A. Any action that qualifies as disorderly conduct under N.C.G.S. § 14-288.4;
B. Any action that qualifies as a disruption under N.C.G.S. § 143-318.17;
C. Any action in violation of a chancellor’s designation of a curfew period pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 116-212;
D. Any action that results in the individual receiving a trespass notice from law enforcement.

These statutes are all reasonable expectations in a civil society – including on a college campus.  For reference, 14-288.4 is Disorderly Conduct, 143-318.17 is Disruptions of Official Meetings and 116-22 has to do with state institutions subject to Curfew.

The policy was prompted by a law passed last year by the General Assembly, HB 527 – Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech.

North Carolina’s Lt. Governor, Dan Forest, was an early proponent of HB 527 and created a video to outline why such a bill was needed:

At the time of the video, only one UNC school in the state had a ‘green light’ for free speech and related policies as rated by Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Democratic legislator, Verla Insko, jumped out in front of media claiming that a bill protecting free speech on campuses was an “extreme agenda.”

UNC Board of Governors List Consequences

For violating the UNC Free Speech and Free Expression policy, which includes the above mentioned state statutes, students could be expelled or face other disciplinary sanctions depending on the severity of the disruption.  This has the usual suspects wringing their hands theatrically.

Here’s the main thrust of the ‘consequences’ of violating the Free Speech policy:

Substantial Disruption - Free Speech - UNC Board of Governors
Portion of the “Consequences for Violation of Policy” section

Various examples are given following this passage, as is a section entitled, “Procedural Safeguards for Students Involved in Expressive Speech or Conduct Disciplinary
Cases” which has yet to be mentioned in any article on the policy by NC media or by the ACLU of NC.

The safeguards include the right to receive advance written notice of the charges and review the evidence in support of the charges.  The student also has the right to confront witnesses against them, present a defense and call witnesses. There is even an appeal process and the right to bring in legal counsel.

Dear ACLU, You’re Doing It Wrong

According to their statement, the ACLU of NC seems to believe that laws that apply to everyone else should not apply to student demonstrators.

The ACLU of NC has complained that the consequences ‘language is too broad’ and this policy could ‘chill free speech’.

“Because of its overly broad language, UNC’s policy runs the risk of punishing people for constitutionally protected activities – an ironic outcome for a policy supposedly designed to protect free speech and free expression. Rather than restricting free speech, the UNC Board of Governors should foster an environment where all voices are heard and competing viewpoints can be aired without fear of punishment or expulsion,” Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina said in a statement.

The ACLU seems to think students who engage in the legal definition of disorderly conduct to the point that it impedes on the Constitutional rights of another person is how “competing voices” are heard? Facing the consequences is “punishing” students?

RELATED: Congressional Hearing: Campus Free Speech Is Under Assault [Video]

The National ACLU has been putting activists to work for months by hammering the UNC Board of Governors with push-emails.

“The new policy under consideration calls for extreme punishment – including suspension and expulsion – for anyone who disrupts a campus speech,” wrote the National ACLU in the push-email form letter.

Preceding that line in the push-email is this one:

As students across the country push back against hateful, racist, and bigoted speakers on their college campuses, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Board of Governors wants to put in place a policy that could chill free speech on campuses across the state and may violate people’s First Amendment rights, particularly their right to peacefully protest.

“Push back.” Is that like “mostly peaceful protest?”

Intimidationbullying, threats of violence, actual violence and property destruction are all employed by ‘ peaceful student demonstrators’ to shut down speakers and silence any view that does not mesh with their own.

The ACLU’s label of “push back” is like comparing hacking someone’s side open with a machete to a flesh wound.

Was this “push back” at UC Berkeley?

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