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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Faculty Council affirms its commitment to the principle of free speech

Faculty Council passed a resolution supporting principles for the promotion and protection of free speech during its meeting on April 13. The vote was 28 to 4, with one abstention.

The resolution was part of a broader statement on free speech that the council’s Communications Working Group adopted on March 28, said Mimi Chapman, a School of Social Work professor who served as chair of the group.

Chapman said the statement responds directly to questions raised across the country about the protection of free speech and debate on college campuses. Those questions arose, she said, in light of episodes in which controversial speakers have been shouted down. Legal experts refer to this practice as “the heckler’s veto.”

The resolution of principles was modeled after the University of Chicago’s policy on free expression. Called “the Chicago Statement,” variations of it have now been adopted or affirmed by more than 30 universities across the country.

Chapman said the resolution lays out underlying principles that are consistent with and support existing policies regarding freedom of speech at Carolina and within the UNC System.

Chapman said the contentious political climate makes reaffirming the University’s commitment to free speech all the more important – a point that the statement touched on in its concluding paragraphs:

“Through calm waters and rough, the mission of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is advanced by our commitment to aspirational principles that guide our public conversation no matter how unsettling. By reaffirming a commitment to full and open inquiry, robust debate, and civil discourse we also affirm the intellectual rigor and open-mindedness that our community may bring to any forum where difficult, challenging, and even disturbing ideas are presented. At Carolina, we have long known that light and liberty are the essential tools that allow problems to be seen, ideas to be tested, and solutions to be found. At a moment of deep societal division and flux, we embrace these truths once again.”

In other business, law school professor Don Hornstein, chair of the Scholarships, Awards and Student Aid Committee, presented the committee’s annual report.

In the fall of 2017, Carolina, along with the University of Virginia, were the only two public universities in the country that were able to meet 100 percent of need-based aid for tuition and fees for all their resident undergraduate students.

“It is financial aid that makes the University’s commitment to both access and equity real,” Hornstein said. “It is what makes it more than an aspiration. It is what makes it more than just a buzz word.”

Hornstein said nobody has better expressed the University’s commitment to access and opportunity than Chancellor Carol L. Folt, who said in summer of 2017 that having a student body that reflects the most talented individuals from all backgrounds not only makes Carolina stronger, but makes the state and nation stronger as well.

The Council also paid tribute to faculty members who passed away over the past year.