North Carolina’s Lt. Governor, Dan Forest, is leading on the issue of suppression of free speech on college campuses.
Forest is unwilling to see the chaos that had been wrought by radical groups like Antifa and Black Bloc descend on colleges in the state.
To curb the possibility of such violence and suppression of free speech, the Lt. Governor is supporting House Bill 527 / SL 2017-196.
The bill’s long title is Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech.
If passed, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors will be required to create and adopt free speech policies.
The bill includes protecting speakers invited to campuses and, “disciplinary sanctions” for anyone attending the college in question who disrupts the free speech or expression of others.
These free speech policies must include a list of requirements as stated in the bill and must create a “Committee on Free Expression and appoint 11 individuals from among its membership to the Committee.”
These committees must report the status of free speech on their respective campuses to the General Assembly annually.
There is also an enforcement provision which limits an institution in restricting activities only if they satisfy specific criteria.
- Is necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest.
- Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
- Leaves open ample other opportunities to engage in the expressive conduct.
- Provides for spontaneous assembly and distribution of literature.
- Colleges in the state will be required to include clear speech policies in all freshman orientations.
There is also a provision for suing an institution if the college in question fails to follow the law. The plaintiff can recover reasonable court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
If a violation is deemed to have occurred, the court can also, “award damages of one thousand dollars ($1,000) or actual damages, whichever is higher.”
The Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech bill is currently awaiting action by the House Committee on Education.
Lt. Governor Forest lays out the intent of these combined bills in a new video and mentions the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education or FIRE.
Forest kicks off the video, stating that, “Universities should be bastions of free speech, open debate, and free-flowing dialogue.
“Instead, around the country speakers are being denied their first amendment rights. That’s why I am working with our General Assembly to create an act to Restore and Preserve Free Speech on our Campuses,” said Forest.
About FIRE’s School Ratings
FIRE’s database ranks schools on free speech codes and has rated 19 out of 26 universities in North Carolina on the issue of free speech.
A green light indicates healthy, legal free speech policies exist.
A red or yellow light in their rating scale signals that university is operating using unconstitutional policies that violate free expression.
Looking at the University of North Carolina System in the above image, only one green light is found – the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Of all of the NC colleges rated by FIRE to date, the only other school in the state with a green light is Duke University.