Updated, June 27: East Carolina University was awarded a green light Tuesday, making it the fourth university in two months to get the award. After ECU changed four of its policies, FIRE gave the university its highest honor. Now North Carolina has six green light schools, further cementing its top spot as the state with the most green lights.
Fans of free speech in North Carolina have reason to celebrate, as another university got a green light from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education earlier this week.
“UNC-Charlotte is showing a sincere commitment to free speech — a commitment that only a few dozen colleges and universities nationwide have made,” said Laura Beltz, FIRE’s policy reform program officer in a recent report.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte received FIRE’s highest honor for its commitment to the First Amendment. This is the fifth university in North Carolina to obtain the highest rating, giving North Carolina the most green lights among states. Duke University, N.C. Central University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UNC-Greensboro also have green lights.
FIRE’s Spotlight database has three categories: red, yellow, and green. Red-light universities have some official policy that clearly restricts free speech. Yellow-light schools have policies that are vague and could be applied in such a way to limit first amendment rights. Those with green lights have no policies restricting speech or expression.
FIRE labels protest policies, harassment policies, policies on ‘hate speech’ or ‘bias’ as just a few examples of speech restricting practices by universities. UNC-Charlotte joins a list of 31 other colleges and universities across the country with green lights.
Legislators are working to ensure all North Carolina universities are committed to free speech. House Bill 527 or Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech, was introduced in April and is designed to bolster free speech protections across the UNC system. H.B. 527 instructs universities not to shield students from any speech, permit protests as long as they are lawful and orderly, allow any speaker to come to campus, as well as a few other policies. The bill would also require the Board of Governors to create a Committee on Free Expression for accountability measures.
H.B. 527 is in the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.