FIRE’s Shibley Addresses ‘Free Expression Tunnel’ Controversy in N.C. State Paper

February 11, 2011

Since fall 2010, when a group of students painted North Carolina State University’s Free Expression Tunnel black and blocked access to other students following the appearance of homophobic and racial slurs, the N.C. State community has debated how to handle such controversies. The most recent coverage of the issue in N.C. State’s student newspaper, The Technician, has discussed the possibility of putting a single student group in charge of overseeing the content of the tunnel’s message. The Technician‘s editorial board strongly opposes such a resolution, and the majority of N.C. State students, fortunately, seem against it as well. Today The Technician published a letter from FIRE’s Robert Shibley (who also investigated the incident back in November), adding FIRE’s voice to the mix. 

Robert writes in part:

Free expression should be just that: free. N.C. State will not benefit from having a student group with the mission of deciding when an individual student’s expression should be erased just because the exercise of his or her First Amendment rights annoys someone. America has always had a different answer–answer "bad" speech with more speech, and convince others that you are correct with the power of your ideas.

Thanks to The Technician for running Robert’s letter; we’re happy to join the paper as well as the students of N.C. State in opposing turning the tunnel into a free speech oxymoron. You can read the whole of Robert’s letter here.