by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center focuses on freshman orientation within the UNC System.
North Carolina has a law that helps address students’ misconceptions about the First Amendment. In the summer of 2017, the North Carolina legislature signed the North Carolina Campus Free Speech Act into law. The law contains important provisions that protect and affirm the importance of campus free speech.
One of the provisions requires that the state’s public colleges discuss free expression during students’ freshman orientation. According to the law:
All constituent institutions of The University of North Carolina shall include in freshman orientation programs a section describing the policies regarding free expression consistent with this Article.
How well are the schools carrying out their duty? To find out, the Martin Center requested digital copies of all free speech materials used during freshman orientations from all UNC system institutions.
Unfortunately, many of the schools’ free speech sections are rather bleak. Rather than providing students with substantial information and guidance, the following schools include a very brief nod to free speech:
- UNC-Chapel Hill
- UNC School of the Arts
- Western Carolina
Perhaps the most egregious example is UNC-Chapel Hill—the state’s flagship university. Out of a presentation of 24 slides, only one meager slide states:
The University embraces and strives to uphold the freedoms of speech and expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. In certain limited circumstances, the University may regulate time, place, and manner of expression, but the University does not limit speech based on content.
The following institutions provide a somewhat more substantive free speech section— although some schools go into more depth than others:
- Appalachian State University
- Elizabeth City State University
- Fayetteville State University
- NCA&T University
- East Carolina University
- North Carolina State University
Some of these schools receive significantly less revenue than larger schools such as UNC-Chapel Hill, yet they seem to put more effort into promoting free expression during orientation.