Legislators Push for Restrictions on Freedom of Speech on UNC Campuses
North Carolina state legislators are pushing for a bill that would limit freedom of speech on UNC campuses across the state. The bill would require campuses to be open to all speakers and would require universities to have sanctions that punish protestors. This bill was introduced without precedence, as there have not been any ongoing issues at any of the UNC campuses. Since it is not in response to any problems at the UNC campuses, it is a direct attempt to limit freedom of speech in North Carolina.
A chaotic legal battle — ironically, over whether a free-speech law would infringe on free speech — would undoubtedly ensue, along with countless campus protests.
Ironic, it is, that this cynically-couched “free speech” idea comes from the same GOP gang that brought us voter suppression laws and wants to close any research centers on campuses that might support liberal ideas.
Rep. Verla Insko of Orange County, a Democrat, had it right when she said, “My main objection is it’s regulating free speech. We don’t really have any ongoing problems at the university. Problems come up and they are solved.” She also cites the “extreme agenda” of the Goldwater Institute, a conservative group advocating laws like this one. The institute, not coincidentally, is affiliated with the Koch brothers of Kansas, devoted billionaire leaders of the far right.
But the best analysis is from UNC-Chapel Hill law professor Michael Gerhardt, who said, “We ought to be abiding by the First Amendment already.” He sees problems coming if protesters face punishments for disruptive actions.
Should UNC campuses welcome conservative speakers and those who represent controversial views of all kinds? Absolutely, and students and faculty should greet them in a civil fashion and let them be heard. But there hasn’t been a problem of any significance, and thus a questionable solution does not need to be found.