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UNCG Reforms Free Speech Policies

An article in the Greensboro News-Record reported today that the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) has finally given up its policy regulating “free speech zones.” UNCG’s Facility-Use Policy quarantined organized student gatherings and protests to two small areas on UNCG’s campus. In November of last year, students Allison Jaynes and Robert Sinnott protested the “free speech zones” by leading a rally in an area that was not designated for student protests. When they refused a direction to vacate the area, both Jaynes and Sinnott were charged with a “violation of Respect.”

After FIRE put pressure on UNCG to drop all charges against Jaynes and Sinnott and reform its policies, the charges were dismissed and UNCG agreed to re-examine its “free speech zones” policy. On Monday, UNCG revealed its revamped policy, which “removes restrictions on where people affiliated with the university or invited to come to campus can go to freely speak.”

The News-Record article explains that some restrictions on free speech still remain:

Under the guidelines, assemblies may not interfere with university activities; take place in athletic or campus recreation facilities; block vehicular, bicycle or pedestrian traffic, or occur within 200 feet of a child care facility or within 30 feet of a building. Groups are also required to notify campus police before an event in case safety measures are necessary.

People who are not affiliated and do not have an invitation to come will not be permitted to conduct an outdoor assembly on the campus, Capone said.

The policy notes that a number of public streets and sidewalks, which are considered public forums, run through or are adjacent to campus and are available to everyone as long as applicable federal, state and city laws are followed.

Allison Jaynes expressed that the new guidelines do not go far enough. In response to the requirement that students notify the police before holding any sort of demonstration, she told the News-Record that “[t]he time restriction doesn’t make any sense… They claim they need it for police security, but students assemble together in groups all over campus. There’s never any police involvement.”

Read for yourself all about FIRE’s long history with UNCG, including why UNCG has earned a “red light” rating on FIRE’s Spotlight: The Campus Freedom Resource.

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