A new campus free speech bill could become law this weekend

A new campus free speech bill could become law this weekend

Free speech on college campuses could look different if a new bill becomes law. What might change? We break it down here.

Above, UNC protestors speak out against the hiring of UNC-system president Margaret Spellings in 2016. Photo from the News & Observer.

Free speech on campus could look different after this weekend.

The bill will likely become law — it passed both chambers of the state legislature with veto-proof majorities — but Gov. Roy Cooper has until Sunday to take action on the bill.

So what could change? N&O intern Sam Killenberg breaks it down:


  • Require the 17 member colleges and universities to be open to any speakers that students, student groups or members of the faculty invite to speak.
  • Ban the practice of creating “free speech zones” on UNC-system campuses. First developed during the Vietnam War, free speech zones are specific areas of campus designated for protest, which have been criticized for limiting protester’s rights.
  • Call for the UNC-system Board of Governors to develop a policy preventing schools from “shield[ing] individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment, including, without limitation, ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.” The Board of Governors will develop a committee to guard free speech on college campuses.
  • Call for member schools to develop sanctions for anyone who disrupts or interferes with the free speech rights of others.
  • Require incoming first-year students to receive training on campus First Amendment policies during orientation.

You can read the full bill here and Sam’s story here. And read more about campus free speech — including the fact that one organization considers N.C. Central and N.C. State to have some problematic speech restrictions — in this story.


Pressley Baird

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