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March 31, 2016 12:00 pm
This week, NC Family president John Rustin talks with Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education (or FIRE), about freedom of speech on college and university campuses in North Carolina, and how we can better protect academic freedom.
Free speech is especially important on campus because campuses are meant to be the ultimate marketplace of ideas in a free society is family policy waters with Nancy family Pres. John Weston think you for joining us. Our guest today is Robert Shibley, Executive Director of the foundation for individual rights in her education fire to be talking with us about ways we can help ensure freedom of speech Christian student stamp for all students for that matter on our college and university campuses. His organization's mission is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities, including freedom of speech and religious liberty. Robert welcome to the family policy matters like very much rapidly. Well, it's great to have you with us today Robert, I want to start a conversation by asking you to define if you would what we mean by free speech on campus and why it is such a critical part of the academic environment for students for professors and other stop as well will free speech is especially important on campus because campuses are meant to be the ultimate marketplace of ideas in a free society campuses are intended to be and they're supposed to function as the place where students who are, you know by young adults, but adults who I've had the right to vote have the right to participate in our democracy.
I get to discuss all the things that interest them and they also get to discuss. No visions or opinions that might end up you might end up being erroneous.
They might end up deciding are wrong later, but they need to be allowed to be wrong in order for them to truly get classically liberal education you need to be able to explore not just will not just hug you whether or not you're right, according to what other people believe, but why you're right.
You need to believe your own beliefs, not just as a prejudice because people tell you the right because you actually thought through it and that you now actually have reasons for believing the things that you do if you don't do that you're not having education you're having propaganda and that was happening all too many campuses today really talking about is intellectual honesty having the college and university campuses be a free speech zone, so to speak, so that students are free to explore Paul's ideas and do so in an environment that's conducive to the growth of intellect. That's right.
And you know here are these days a lot about safe spaces on campus.
People say oh it's not safe for people of a certain race or gender OR what have you but I think we need to be more concerned if anything about whether or not it is actually safe to disagree whether or not it seems to be wrong on campus and and by safe I mean. Actually, students are regularly put on campus trial and and threatened with the loss of their education and disruption of their careers for saying or thinking and expressing the wrong thing on campus safe zones, so to speak. We also hear a term of speech code. What is a speech code on the college campus in is this a good thing or a bad thing for university to have in place.
Well, it's a bad thing. What fire I classify the speech codes is any regulation that goes further than the Constitution would allow one public campuses or a private institution's own promises of free speech would allow them private institutions, which by the way, are not bound by the First Amendment and those that had to be labeled speech code actually very rarely are there often found in places like sexual harassment codes racial harassment codes and generally anything with the word harassment and it you see it in policies on the usage of email.
You can see it in demonstration policies. I can't tell you how many times we had cases where students are actually stop simply from handing out pamphlets, which is one of the most heavily protected things you can do in the United States so speech goes any regulation that compromises those rights know I noticed that North Carolina did not appear this year on fire's list of the top 10 worst colleges for free speech, which is good news.
Tell us about the school, but did make the worst list and what well I think first of all, I think it is really good news that I do yours your North Carolina did not appear on the list this year and in fact, UNC Chapel Hill is actually a green light which means I agree we we write each codes on a red light yellow light green light scheme for red light being the most restrictive in them and the most unlawful. If the public university green of court having no such restrictions, and we are happy that in 2015, we were able to work with your North Carolina Chapel Hill to eliminate all their feet code so there now one of only if about 25 I think speech code free universities out of the 430 we write what were some of the schools that did make a list. Well, you have a lot portly a lot more choices when it comes to the 10 worst colleges for free speech. One of the ones that really made a lot of news recently was Mount St. Mary's University which is a small university in Maryland and in that case, the president, there actually summarily fired a professor and the newspapers faculty advisor after they reported on something that he had said he had he had said I just made a lot of national news that they need to be more brutal about cutting out students very early on who they thought couldn't do the work and he said you think of list you think the student is currently bunnies but you had to drown the bunnies and put a Glock to their heads. And so, by reporting these things, you doesn't deny that he said they the student newspaper.
Apparently upset him and his punishment for that was firing. The two professors who were involved in that situation. Ultimately, that led to a lot of backlash because it seems so unjust. In effect, wasn't just an out is actually the president who ended up resigning your listening policy matters resource to listen to our radio show online resources have a place of persuasion in your community to our website collecting you talking about the rating system to to use the green light yellow light and red light system if you would and maybe give some examples of the specific university policies that you look at when you are determining a school grading.
Well I guess that we we often look first harassment policies because those very often impinge on speech because harassment of course is a course of action that can include expression that the rise of the level where it is no longer lawful. Most speech in United States is protected by the First Amendment, even unpleasant speech speech by the like.
The Westboro Baptist Church. For instance, of the Ku Klux Klan is protected speech. But when that rises to a level of harassment when it's targeted discriminatory minutes and it is not severe, pervasive and objectively offensive to somebody's trying to get an education than it does in fact stop having first-ever protection. Unfortunately, a lot of universities are very careful about what they consider to be harassment. So for instance if you years ago in Davidson College.
I know they they supposedly band and of course I say supposedly because there's no way they were enforcing this but the use of terms like girl boy hunt honey, honk Daul sweetie and you on other terms like that it does deem those to be harassment.
Now, I don't believe for one minute. The Davidson was going around fighting and what you did that in publishing them, but unfortunately what these policies do is they make everyone a lawbreaker in the eyes of the of the campus authorities. Everybody has broken a rule and so if they want to punish someone for saying something clinically incorrect for believing and unpopular belief they've always got something that they can find them at and punish them for it reminds me of the famous founder basically of the KGB, who famously said I you show me the man and I'll find you the crime and that's how almost every university with these red light speech codes operate if they devolve. There's always a crime if they want to get the manner the world or the woman they can always find some reason to do so, but it sounds like political correctness to landmark. Well it is you, not a lot of people sort of thought that that political correctness died after you know really coming into disrepute back in the early 90s, but in fact was institutionalized sort of under other names but I've anything for the rightness. I think people recognizing that now again because it does seem to have come to another head of ridiculousness. These days people recognizing that "practices back in as interesting development because fire for a long time fire 16 years old and that the beginning of fires existence.
We do a lot of arguing and letting people know that you, by the way, there is still political correctness folks. You will get what they say we were believe now everybody believes now. We talked a little bit about the Carolina colleges in the top 10 worst campus list. But before we talk about a few specific schools in North Carolina. In general, how are North Carolina colleges and universities doing when it comes to the issue of free speech on campus. How does our stay compared to others. North Carolina is actually better than most other states.
I'm I don't think we rated it by states in our last report. I know two years ago North Carolina I believe was the third-best date so you get that from dividing the number of schools we rate by the number schools that have red lights but I would expect North going to be similarly good this year because you were to North Carolina.
Chapel Hill has eliminated its last speech codes.
No other other you know universities are increasingly eliminating their speech codes. They thought the fires pushing into into a lawsuit that a litigation program that we initiated a couple years back, and for the first time last year.
Since we started rating eight years ago, less than half of schools that we rate have red light speech codes and and we write most of them 430 schools across, including all the biggest and most prestigious so that you know our first year. He was 79% financed on 49% and that's a big improvement. But of course that does mean the 49% of schools are still flagrantly violating the law and the only schools are also quite arguably violating the Constitution as well, like they probably are, but it's not quite a severe listing. I noticed Carolina University in Greenville, and Carolina is one of the schools rated with the red light on Fars database was that while it actually goes right to their harassment policy as is the usual custom.
Here is their definition of sexual harassment is problematic. ECU says that sexual harassment is conduct of a sexual nature that includes unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors jokes about sex or sexual orientation, other verbal, nonverbal, physical conduct of a sexual nature and creating a hostile environment that the problem here is that that is so vague and overbroad that it number one is too vague to understand other verbal conduct of a sexual nature. What is that even include images that include asking someone out on a date. Does that mean they dimension sexual orientation. Does that mean you no opposition or support for that matter of gay marriage.
We seen you know that be you bandied about a sexual harassment before. So when you hassling this broad nobody can figure out what it means and also we know that it touches a lot of speech abuse read its own terms, that is protected while being a Tar Heel myself. I was encouraged to hear what you shared earlier with our listeners at UNC Chapel Hill has been rated the green light to tell a soul, but more beyond just the elimination of speech codes.
What is UNC Chapel Hill doing well that other universities in the state can learn from.
Well, I think. I mean that the main thing the distinguished UNC Chapel Hill was after years and years of going back and forth with fire about their policies. We actually have had more cases and by fire I will. We say cases, weeds or incidents that come to fire not necessarily legal cases), but we had more cases with UNC Chapel Hill that would many many other schools that used to be a course of a Christmas tradition for us as a matter of finding two or three years in a row Chapel Hill. What would you know that make make a blunder and we would have to call them on and around the Christmas season, but I yeah II guess the leadership is changed and maybe attitudes of change.
The little bit as well. Now were really happy that the current people in an office there have come to fire it and decide to work with us instead of running over and over you right up against the Constitution and so that's really a meat fire and we actually employ two full-time attorneys you know from one from an Ivy League school just to work with colleges and universities for free. Of course, to change their policy fires a charity there's a lot of people out there.
There's actually a whole industry of folks who charge a lot of money to try to work on your mercy policies. We do it for free, and we try to get you compliant with the Constitution and so were always looking for more school to do that I would invite any school years in North Carolina system or or private school to call us up and were happy to work with you as opposed to creating an adversarial relationship.
If the university and college leadership can come together with fire and want together, then there's certainly some positive grandma could be made there. Robert, if a student, professional or other staff person on a college or university campus feels that their academic freedom or free speech rights have been infringed upon. What would you recommend that they do well. I would recommend they visit fires firstname.lastname@example.org know we may have answers for you on the website and if not, please submit a case or question to us and will try to help Robert Shipley.
I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us this week on family policy matters to talk about academic freedom on college campuses and for your important work defending free speech rights, students, professors and other staff on campuses nationwide.
Thank you for having me policy matter production to listen to show online information about issues important to families in North Carolina website family.org in front of us on Twitter