Report says state universities illegally limit free speech

January 10, 2006

Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — Some public universities in North Carolina system impose unconstitutional limits on freedom of speech, according to a report issued Tuesday.

The report was issued by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

“It’s a public school system,” Greg Lukianoff, interim president of the foundation, said at a news conference in the Legislative Building. “It’s bound by the First Amendment.”

One example cited in the report was a prohibition by Fayetteville State University on vulgar language. Another example was the prohibition on “disrespect for persons” at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Elizabeth City State University was the only school in the UNC system not criticized in the report.

The report called on the system to review the campus policies.

Leslie Winner, vice president and general counsel for the university system, said the report will be examined carefully.

“Open debate and free dialogue are hallmark values of the university system and we very, very rarely get any complaints that anyone feels their free speech rights are being infringed,” Winner said.

“We do have time, place and manner restrictions that say you can’t have your protest on the classroom steps when people are trying to get in, but it never means you can’t have your protest.”

She questioned the need for the report and called it “a clear case of smoke with no fire.”

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Schools: University of North Carolina – Wilmington University of North Carolina – Greensboro University of North Carolina – Pembroke University of North Carolina – Charlotte University of North Carolina School of the Arts Cases: University of North Carolina System: State of the First Amendment