Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center reviews recent free-speech developments on UNC campuses.

Fortunately, there has been some progress since the Martin Center’s 2018 review of UNC system schools. The most notable improvement is that three schools have earned the highest free speech rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). FIRE rates institutions of higher education with a green-, red-, or yellow-light according to how much their regulations, practices, and actions are in line with the Constitution.

A green-light rating means there are no barriers to free speech, a red-light rating means there are clear impediments to free speech, and a yellow-light rating means that a school’s policies could potentially bar free speech. Since last year’s report, North Carolina State University, UNC Pembroke, and Western Carolina University all went from a yellow-light rating to a green-light rating.

But the results are not all good. In some cases, there has been no improvement in university policies. For example, the following universities still have yellow-light ratings:

  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • North Carolina A&T University
  • UNC Asheville
  • Winston-Salem State University

In other cases, universities didn’t only fail to bring their policies in accordance with the law—they backtracked. This is true particularly of UNC Asheville.