by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Magdalene Horzempa writes for the Martin Center about an example of the UNC System’s struggle to maintain political neutrality.
The law states that colleges should aspire to “institutional neutrality,” where schools do not take a stance on a political issue, so that students and staff don’t feel pressured to share the views of the political majority on campus.
However, during the political science commencement ceremony at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I saw institutional neutrality fail. The last official event graduating students would attend with Chapel Hill was suffused with politics rather than reflections on knowledge and truth.
This year, the political science department at UNC-Chapel Hill chose Gina Collias, a conservative-turned-liberal North Carolina politician running for Congress in the 10th District, to give the commencement speech—which she used as a platform to campaign for Congress and praise liberal students. …
… By inviting Gina Collias to speak at the political science commencement, UNC-Chapel Hill confirmed, once again, that they will push a progressive political line at non-political events. Pushing that political line at a commencement ceremony defies the spirit of the law to uphold institutional neutrality and puts politics above the university’s academic mission.
Nor is Collias an outlier: Left-of-center speakers at UNC commencement speeches are a very common occurrence. In 2016, UNC-Chapel Hill hosted notable progressive women’s rights activist Anne-Marie Slaughter. That same year, North Carolina universities hosted more well-known progressives as commencement speakers to include Melissa Harris-Perry at Winston-Salem State University, Bakari Sellers at Elizabeth City State University, Cory Booker at North Carolina Central University, and Anthony Foxx at North Carolina A&T University. In 2017, UNC-Chapel Hill hosted CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin and this year, in addition to Gina Collias, UNC system schools hosted more progressive speakers like renowned social justice advocate Rev. Dr. William Barber at North Carolina Central University.