by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Chris West writes for the Martin Center about a new report examining N.C. colleges’ protection of free speech on campuses.
Universities receiving a green-light rating offer sufficient First Amendment protections to students, whereas receiving a yellow-light rating means that the university has a few troubling policies, but provides some significant First Amendment protections. According to FIRE executive director Robert Shibley, “a ‘red light’ is a worst-case scenario, designated when there is a speech code that is ‘blatantly unconstitutional at a public university, or that violates its own promises of freedom of speech at a private university.’”
Now, North Carolina is currently ranked as the top state in terms of the overall number of green-light-rated schools.
According to the 2018 report, UNC-Chapel Hill was the first to make the move to a green light rating in 2015, when it revised two troubling speech codes listed in the 2010 study. … Since 2015, several North Carolina institutions have followed suit, making some notable strides in their commitment to the First Amendment. …
… Many private schools, such as Campbell University and Wake Forest University, make no claim to place religious or other values above First Amendment protections. Therefore, they are included in this report. Many of them have poor free-speech ratings and few have shown improvement since 2010. Duke University is the rare example of a private university that has made significant policy changes to provide or guarantee First Amendment protections to students.
In total, there are 16 private colleges that still remain red-light campuses, all of which are private. More than two-thirds of the schools surveyed in the report received a red-light rating.
There is still much to do to create a university system that upholds its commitment to freedom of expression and assembly.