Education

North Carolina Colleges Rated Most Free Speech Friendly

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter

North Carolina colleges earned the most pro-free speech ratings from The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit group that tracks civil liberties on campus.

FIRE gave five North Carolina colleges “green light” ratings for embracing free speech on campus. It gave special distinction to the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, which received the highest free speech rating across the country.

“UNC Charlotte is showing a sincere commitment to free speech — a commitment that only a few dozen colleges and universities nationwide have made,” said Laura Beltz, policy reform program officer for FIRE, in the press release. “FIRE is thrilled at the progress in North Carolina and around the country, and looks forward to working with more colleges to protect student and faculty speech rights.”

“We can’t benefit from each other’s knowledge or rigorously test our own without open discussion and inquiry,” said Jesh Humphrey, UNC Charlotte’s vice chancellor and general counsel, to TheDCNF, before acknowledging that the school has “certainly had to address several instances where members of [the] community have expressed themselves in a hurtful or unproductive manner.”

The vice chancellor also noted that educators must teach students the distinction between “protected speech” and “responsible speech.”

“When you read the newspaper, there seems to be a convergence of increased toxicity and increased sensitivity,” said Humphrey. “It’s disheartening to read some of the damaging things people are willing to say, and equally discouraging to see reports of schools being accused of ‘hiding’ behind the First Amendment.”

Duke University, North Carolina Central University, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and the University of North Carolina – Greensboro also received “green light” ratings from FIRE. Across the nation, 31 schools were awarded the “green light” rating.

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