by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jenna Robinson’s latest Martin Center column focuses on improvement in N.C. State University’s approach to free speech on campus.
Free speech on North Carolina’s campuses has come a long way in the last decade. North Carolina State University is the most recent school to earn a “green light” from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for its speech policies.
Nearly ten years ago, when the Martin Center partnered with FIRE to take stock of speech restrictions at public and private universities across the state, we found no “green light” schools. That means that every school in North Carolina, at that time, regulated free speech to a significant extent. Some schools severely restricted student and faculty speech.
Moving a university from curtailing free speech on campus to protecting it is a momentous task. It often requires years of effort from students, professors, administrators, and public policy organizations like FIRE. Sometimes, it requires more: Lawsuits forcing universities to end unconstitutional restrictions on speech are common. …
… Many people worked together to create change at NC State. Two professors, as well as the General Assembly’s directive that UNC schools protect free speech, were instrumental in starting the process. Political science professor Andrew Taylor and communications professor Jean Goodwin worked with FIRE’s attorneys to identify unconstitutional policies in NC State’s handbooks and regulations. Taylor and Goodwin are both members of Heterodox Academy, a non-partisan association of academics committed to viewpoint diversity and constructive disagreement in higher education.