On Sept. 9, the UNC Chapel Hill Faculty Council met and approved a resolution entitled “On the Right and Duty of Faculty Members to Speak Freely and the Duty of the University to Protect Faculty Speech.” The resolution was submitted by law professor Eric L. Muller and was received favorably by those in attendance. Among Muller’s areas of expertise are civil rights and constitutional law.
“Public expression on matters of local, regional, national, and international importance is a core component of the jobs of many members of the faculty and must not be suppressed,” Muller’s resolution stated. “The University and its leaders must actively and publicly advocate for and defend the rights of faculty members to speak and write on all matters within the ambit of their research, teaching, and service.”
The resolution also called for professors to be authorized to use their title and affiliation with the university when they are speaking publicly, even if it is made clear they are not expressing an official position of the university on a matter.
The UNC Chapel Hill Faculty Council also affirmed the “Chicago Principles” — a set of free-speech principles laid out at the University of Chicago and adopted by other universities across the country — in a prior 2018 resolution.
This 2022 resolution also notes UNC Chapel Hill’s “Policy on Freedom of Speech and Expression” says the university “is committed to providing an inclusive and flourishing environment for free speech and expression consistent with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 14 of the North Carolina State Constitution.”
Earlier in the year, the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted unanimously for a resolution to affirm the school’s commitment to free speech. This came after a study from the faculty showed conservative students felt less comfortable sharing their views on campus.
A 501(c)3 called the UNC Alumni Free Speech Alliance also recently formed to push for more protection of speech at the school, after some alumni expressed concerns.
A study by College Fix found that UNC Chapel Hill had 16 times more professors registered as Democrats as they do Republicans, after choosing a sample of 14 departments with over 400 professors and cross-referencing their names with state Board of Elections data.
In response to Carolina Journal publishing the results of the study under the title “Study: UNC Chapel Hill has 16x more Democrat professors than Republican,” UNC Chapel Hill’s media relations team sent a request for a correction that stated:
Your headline and lede are misleading. The College Fix study only analyzed data from public sources and only if the individual chose to make their political affiliation public. Carolina offers 78 bachelor’s, 112 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools, the College of Arts and Sciences and their hundreds of departments plus key centers and institutes campus wide. It is inaccurate to say that a survey of 14 departments is representative of the University as a whole.
Also, please refer to this recent message from the Chancellor reaffirming the University’s commitment to academic freedom, and specifically “respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints.” The University’s commitment extends to recruitment of faculty, staff and students, all of which are based on attracting the best and brightest candidates and none of which involve decisions based on politics.
In response, CJ stated that many studies and surveys choose a sample from within a population to understand the larger group. CJ said if UNC Chapel HIll had a reason to believe those 14 departments were not representative of the school as a whole, then CJ would be willing to publish that reasoning, or if they had more complete data that included every department, CJ would publish that as well.
No further response from the university has been received on the topic.
The full text of the UNC Chapel Hill Faculty Council’s resolution on free speech can be read below: