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NC a National Leader in Free Speech on College Campuses

North Carolina has been recognized by Alliance Defending Freedom as one of the leading states in the nation when it comes to protecting free speech on college campuses. Last week, ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom released a review of state laws protecting student free speech for all 50 states and notes that North Carolina “broadly protects student free speech rights through a number of statutes.”

According to the review that includes three national maps, North Carolina is:

  • 1 of only 11 states that prohibits “speech zones,” which attempt to limit when and where public speech is permitted on college campuses;
  • 1 of only 11 states that protects freedom of association, whereby students may organize in recognized student groups and establish standards for membership and leadership;
  • 1 of only 8 states that prohibit “speech codes,” which attempt to limit protected speech on college campuses; and
  • 1 of only 6 states that was listed on all three of the free speech protection maps

This favorable evaluation is due, in part, to the proactive measures passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in the past few years. These include:

  • Senate Bill 719—Student Organizations/Rights & Recognition, which was passed in 2014 and helps to “protect all students in public colleges and universities from policies that would discriminate against religious or ideological groups.” It also ensures that all student groups are afforded the same generally available benefits no matter their religious or political views and protects the ability of student groups to limit their leadership and membership pursuant to their beliefs.
  • House Bill 527—Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech, which was passed earlier this year and directs the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina system to adopt a clear and broad policy regarding free expression on university campuses for students, faculty and other staff. According to ADF, this measure “should eliminate speech zones on North Carolina campuses,” and “may also prohibit many applications of speech codes.”

Despite these laws and directives intended to protect the free speech rights of students and staff at colleges and universities in North Carolina, it is vital that students and parents remain vigilant in tracking the progress of these policies and standing against efforts by institutions of higher education to infringe upon the free expression rights guaranteed by the Constitution.


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