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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Reminder on First Amendment, free speech laws and policies

Dear Carolina Community:

As we start another academic year and welcome new and returning students, faculty and staff to Carolina, we want to remind everyone about the important role that free speech plays on our campus.

Carolina is committed to fostering an environment where intellectual engagement flourishes. The free exchange of ideas is what makes ours a vibrant academic community, and we will continue our longstanding traditions of protecting free speech.

First Amendment, N.C. Law & UNC System Policy

As a public university, Carolina embraces the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and upholds the North Carolina Restore and Preserve Free Speech Act and the UNC System Board of Governors’ policy on free speech and free expression, both enacted in 2017.

At Carolina, like all public universities, you will have the opportunity to hear from a wide range of speakers expressing many different viewpoints. Speakers may be invited by a school, department or student organization, among others. Citizens may rent University facilities for events. In some cases, the University can set reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech, but those regulations must be content neutral. Under the First Amendment, the University cannot prohibit a person from speaking on campus because our community does not agree with what that person has to say or because the speech is offensive to most people. Upholding the law does not mean the University endorses or approves such speech in any way.

Demonstrations and Rallies Are Possible

Throughout the academic year, demonstrations, rallies and related events are always possible on campus and nearby in Chapel Hill with little advance notice. Outdoor public spaces on campus are open to all regardless of their views, as long as they follow the law and University policy. Permits are not required for such gatherings in most of McCorkle Place, but are in other quads and locations under our Facilities Use Policy. We respect and believe in the rights of peaceful protesters. While students, faculty and staff may gather and exercise their rights to free speech, the state law and the Board of Governors policy previously referenced prohibit significant disruption of University operations. We expect all campus community members to comply.

Your safety is the University’s highest priority, and we work closely with town officials and local law enforcement agencies to keep our communities as safe as possible. If you do not wish to participate in such events, we ask you to use caution and discretion before walking or traveling near those areas. Please follow @UNC on Twitter or visit Alert Carolina to sign up for text messages.

If you ever receive threats or feel your safety is threatened, including on social media, you should call police by dialing 911. We also have counseling services available for students, faculty and staff. Students may call Counseling and Psychological Services at 919-966-3658. Faculty and staff may contact our Employee Assistance Program 24 hours a day at 877-314-5841.

Free Speech Policy Resources

The legal and policy framework surrounding freedom of speech can be difficult and complex. To assist members of the campus community who have questions or concerns, the University has identified individuals to serve as resources regarding institutional policies affecting the exercise of free speech.

They are:

This informational message is sent in accordance with the North Carolina Restore and Preserve Free Speech Act and UNC Board of Governors Policy § 1300.8.

Sincerely,

Robert A. Blouin, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Jonathan Pruitt, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations

Jonathan Sauls, Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs