UNC Greensboro Caves on ‘Speech Zone’ Punishment

By on January 17, 2006

Once again proving FIRE’s belief that universities cannot defend in public what they do in private, UNC Greensboro has dropped all charges against the students who protested the university’s “free speech zone.” As we note in today’s press release:

This resounding victory for free speech came just days after FIRE and the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy released a report documenting dozens of policies from across the University of North Carolina System—including UNCG—that violate the U.S. Constitution. UNCG had been on the defensive since FIRE revealed in December that students Allison Jaynes and Robert Sinnott were to be punished for violating the school’s “free speech zone” policy by protesting outside the school’s two small free speech zones.

We are very pleased that UNCG finally did the right thing, but columnist and UNC Wilmington professor Mike Adams rightfully skewers the university for its behavior in his column for Townhall.com:

The UNCG administration did not capitulate because of a love of free speech. These cowards capitulated because they hate public humiliation more than they hate the First Amendment. And that is why I would never, under any circumstances, send my child to UNCG.

Mike also points out some of the other horrifying developments of the case including this incident:

The UNCG student attorney general told Sinnott and Jaynes that neither could take any notes out of the hearing with them or even talk about the hearing with anyone else after the fact—basically imposing a complete “gag order.” In other words, they were asked to destroy any evidence of whatever constitutes—or does not constitute—“due process” at UNCG.

And this:

UNCG dropped the “speech zone” charges against the two students the week before the trials and, instead, substituted a new charge. The new charge was for violating a direct order by not turning over the contact information of every single person at the protest.

I shudder to think how this case would have gone if the public had not been informed about what was going on. We will certainly be keeping our eyes on UNCG. They still have a speech code and still have their absurd free speech zone policy on the books and until these policies are repealed our work there is not truly over.

Schools: University of North Carolina – Wilmington University of North Carolina – Greensboro