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FIRE’s Robert Shibley: UNC Doesn’t Need Another Restriction on Speech

By February 11, 2015

FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley took to The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina) yesterday to protest the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s consideration of a ban on the phone app Yik Yak, which allows users to share anonymous comments with those geographically close to them. As we’ve argued on The Torch before, counter-speech—not censorship—is the best answer to messages that students and faculty may consider wrong or offensive. In yesterday’s article, Robert reminds UNC-Chapel Hill that it should know better, particularly in light of its history.

He writes:

In the summer of 1963, the North Carolina legislature passed a law banning “known members” of the Communist Party from speaking on UNC campuses. The organized opposition to this “speaker ban” to keep politically unpopular and purportedly harmful speech off campus is a celebrated time in the history of the UNC system. It cemented the legacy of longtime system President Bill Friday and even rates a campus monument today.

Now, though, the university has found another target: users of the ever-controversial app Yik Yak. Apparently forgetting that the state’s 1963 ban was struck down by a federal court just five years later, administrators are contemplating blocking network access to the app because, in UNC Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Winston Crisp’s opinion, “it adds little to no value to [the] community and creates more problems for [UNC] students than it will ever be worth.”

Luckily for students at UNC-Chapel Hill and public universities everywhere, Crisp cannot simply eliminate speech he personally thinks isn’t valuable.

Read the rest of Robert’s article for a defense of anonymous speech as a tool for social change and more on why UNC-Chapel Hill should reject censorship.

Schools: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill