Campus Progress Emphasizes First Amendment Concerns in UNC Honor Code Case

By June 11, 2013

Campus Progress’ Jenn Nowicki reported yesterday on the recently dismissed honor code charges against University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC­–CH) student Landen Gambill. Gambill was charged with "disruptive or intimidating behavior" after publicly criticizing UNC’s handling of sexual assault cases, including her own.

In dismissing Gambill’s case, and all other pending cases brought under the same honor code provision, UNC–CH Chancellor Holden Thorp acknowledged that he was taking action in order to "protect the free speech rights of [UNC's] students." 

Nowicki quoted FIRE’s Will Creeley on why the code was problematic:

In the Honor Code, [an external review] found, harassment and intimidation are so vaguely defined that they could be applied to a large number of student behaviors and speech, including those which are constitutionally protected.

"Unless you have a harassment code that is specific and precise, and matches the Supreme Court’s definition of harassment in the educational context, you’re going to have a code that prohibits protected speech, and that code will be used eventually to crack down on speech that you support," [FIRE's Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will] Creeley said. "It’s important to remember that the First Amendment protects all kinds of speech, and that threats to one person’s First Amendment speech are threats to everybody’s First Amendment speech." 

Read more about the case at Campus Progress.

Schools: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill