By Matthew Burns
Raleigh, N.C. — A bill to “restore and preserve campus free speech” throughout the University of North Carolina system failed in a House committee on Wednesday amid concerns that it would do more to infringe on free speech than it would to protect it.
Calling the state’s infamous Speaker Ban in the 1960s a mistake, Reps. Chris Millis, R-Pender, and Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, the sponsors of House Bill 527, said UNC campuses should be open to all ideas, even those that some students and faculty find objectionable.
“Intellectual diversity is extremely important,” Millis told members of the House Committee on Education – Universities. “That’s what we should be fostering.”
Jordan, whose district includes Appalachian State University, decried the use of so-called “free expression zones” on campus, saying the entire campus should be a free expression zone.
Tom Shanahan, general counsel for the UNC system, said the Board of Governors and individual campuses already have free speech policies in effect that extend into such areas as codes of conduct for students and rental agreements for campus facilities. Controversial speakers frequently appear on campuses without any problem, he said, so there is no need for legislation setting up more policies.