University of North Carolina Introduces Policy to Uphold First Amendment Rights for Students

BERKELEY, CA - APRIL 15: Trump supporters clash with protesters at a "Patriots Day" free speech rally on April 15, 2017 in Berkeley, California. More than a dozen people were arrested after fistfights broke out at a park where supporters and opponents of President Trump had gathered. (Photo by Elijah …
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The University of North Carolina Board of Governors introduced a new policy last week that aims to crack down on the number of disruptions that take place during controversial campus events.

The policy, which will go into effect at all of the University of North Carolina campuses, affirms that students will be punished if they disrupt campus events.

“Students, staff and faculty shall be permitted to assemble and engage in spontaneous expressive activity as long as such activity is lawful and does not materially and substantially disrupt the functioning of the constituent institution, subject to the requirements of this policy,” the new policy reads.

The policy goes on to affirm that University of North Carolina students are free to express themselves in any way that is lawful under the First Amendment.

Students, staff and faculty have the freedom to discuss any problem that presents itself, as the First Amendment permits and within the limits of viewpoint- and content-neutral restrictions on time, place, and manner of expression that are necessary to achieve a significant institutional interest. The constituent institutions must assure that any such restrictions are clear, published, and provide ample alternative means of expression. Students, staff and faculty shall be permitted to assemble and engage in spontaneous expressive activity as long as such activity is lawful and does not materially and substantially disrupt the functioning of the constituent institution, subject to the requirements of this policy.

Some faculty members pushed back against the new policy, arguing that it goes beyond what is required under state law. The UNC Faculty Assembly wrote a letter arguing that the new policy is “not specific enough to provide fairness and clarity about what behavior will be deemed excessive.”

Last week students at Arkansas State University filed a lawsuit that claimed that the school’s “free speech zones” constituted an unconstitutional restriction on their ability to express themselves under the First Amendment.

 

 

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