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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Earns FIRE’s Highest Rating for Free Speech

July 7, 2015

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., July 7, 2015—The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). With assistance from FIRE in revising its policies, UNC joins a prestigious group of colleges and universities that have reformed their policies on student expression to ensure that they comply with the First Amendment.

“We are thrilled to welcome UNC to the ranks of our green light institutions,” said Azhar Majeed, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program. “I commend the UNC administration for working with FIRE to improve its policies and stand up for students’ First Amendment rights. I hope more universities will follow UNC’s lead.”

FIRE began working with the UNC administration in April 2014, when UNC had two “yellow light” speech codes remaining. Majeed collaborated with Kara Simmons, associate university counsel at UNC, and Jonathan Sauls, dean of students, to revise both policies to meet First Amendment standards. UNC revised the first policy, concerning distribution of student flyers in residence halls, in May 2014. The university recently eliminated its lone remaining speech code, which banned speech that “disparages” another person.

“UNC-Chapel Hill has a long history of protecting the First Amendment rights of our campus community members, and we welcomed this opportunity to further affirm that commitment with this recent policy review,” said Dean Sauls.

FIRE Program Associate David Deerson, an alumnus of UNC, began advocating for UNC to eliminate its speech codes when he was a student at the university. Deerson wrote a number of letters to the editor published in UNC’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, about unconstitutional policies at UNC.

“I’ve been working with FIRE, both as a student and an employee, to eliminate speech codes at UNC since 2011,” said Deerson. “It is tremendously exciting to see my alma mater bring its policies in line with constitutional rights, and I look forward to the big ideas and engaging activism that a truly free academic environment will foster.”

UNC becomes the 21st green light institution in FIRE’s Spotlight database of over 400 colleges and universities, as well as the only green light school in the state of North Carolina.

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.

CONTACT: 

Katie Barrows, Communications Coordinator, FIRE: 215-717-3473; katie@thefire.org

Schools: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill