The East Carolina University Board of Trustees voted unanimously this month to adopt a “Resolution on the Affirmation of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech.”
The vote comes amid growing concern across the country in colleges and universities about political bias and free speech. A survey conducted over the summer and presented to the UNC Board of Trustees, titled “Free Expression and Constructive Dialogue at the University of North Carolina,” found that campuses “do not consistently achieve an atmosphere that promotes free expression.” This prompted the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees to adopt a resolution affirming free speech. While UNC-Chapel Hill was the first in the state to pass a such resolution they are no longer alone.
The ECU resolution is based on the UNC Board of Trustee report and the 1967 Kalven Committee Report from The University of Chicago.
“The university itself needs to be a place where you can invite debate about issues of our time.” ECU Board of Trustees Chairman Scott Shook told Carolina Journal. “Sometimes new issues and new ideas are controversial, their discomforting, they challenge narratives. The university needs to be a place to house these conversations.”
While these resolutions affirm free speech for all students, the survey from Chapel Hill clearly indicates that self-described conservative students are more uncomfortable speaking out compared to their liberal counterparts. From immigration to race to police, moderate and liberal students always felt more comfortable voicing their opinion. Shook noted from the UNC report ”some people are more apt to censure their political opinions based on their peers and professors.”
Issues surrounding free speech on campus aren’t just limited to UNC schools. In January, the High Point University College Republicans attempted to host a screening of a Daily Wire film called “The Greatest Lie Ever Sold: George Floyd and the Rise of BLM.” The president of the HPUCR received so many threats on social media, she was forced to contact the High Point University Police to file a report. The director of student engagement contacted the HPUCR President, informing her the event was canceled due to not having the rights to the film. Carolina Peacock a member of the College Republicans in an opinion piece in Carolina Journal said “The Republicans on campus feel that we no longer have a voice.”
“We want to make sure East Carolina University as a whole doesn’t take political stances but its faculty, staff, and other interested parties are free and encouraged to openly debate any issues,” said Shook.