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Colleges Get High Marks for Free Speech
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 11 December 2018 15:58

PHILADELPHIA,  PA-- Western Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke have earned the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s highest, “green light” rating for protecting student and faculty free speech, a distinction held by only 42 other institutions in the country.

“Due to restrictive speech codes, most students around the country forfeit some First Amendment rights when they step onto campus — but not at these two universities,” said Azhar Majeed, FIRE’s vice president of policy reform in a press release. “We’re excited that WCU and UNC Pembroke leadership worked to ensure that their respective students enjoy the same free speech rights that they possess off campus. Colleges should be places of robust debate, but the speech policies maintained by most colleges in the country discourage that kind of discussion.”

WCU revised five speech codes that had been designated with a “yellow light” rating from FIRE. Policies earn a yellow light rating when they are vague enough that they could restrict constitutionally protected expression. Among the policy improvements, WCU reformed its campus expressive activity policy to provide robust protections for student demonstrations and expressive activity all over campus. WCU also changed policies relating to information technology use, harassment, bullying, and sexual harassment.

UNC Pembroke, for its part, revised four yellow light policies. These included a free speech event policy, a computer acceptable use regulation, a sexual misconduct policy, and a student code of conduct provision.

“UNC Pembroke is pleased to reaffirm our commitment to free speech within our campus community by achieving green light status with FIRE,” said Travis Bryant, associate vice chancellor for campus safety and emergency operations. “The thoughtful exchange of ideas and respect for differences in opinion and belief is essential to a rigorous academic experience for students, faculty and staff and a core tenet of the high-quality, personal education offered on our campus.”

WCU and UNC Pembroke are the sixth and seventh universities, respectively, to earn a green light rating in 2018. There are now 10 green light schools in North Carolina, more than in any other state in the country. The other Tar Heel State institutions that earn a green light rating are:

Appalachian State University

Duke University

East Carolina University

North Carolina Central University

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

University of North Carolina Wilmington

Public universities like WCU and UNC Pembroke are legally bound by the First Amendment, while private institutions are bound by promises of free speech found in their official policies.




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