Speaker Ban plus 50

April 7, 2013 

There’s nothing golden about the 50th anniversary of the Speaker Ban law, a nasty piece of unconstitutional legislation passed by an overbearing legislative leadership uninterested in an dissenting opinion. In 1963, anti-communist hysteria was rampant, and lawmakers decided, curiously, that the best way to protect college students from bad influences was to ban communists from speaking on public campuses. That, of course, only inflamed the students and resulted in a couple of speeches made just over the stone wall separating UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus from the street.

Thanks to wiser heads, notably that of the late UNC system President William Friday, the Speaker Ban faded until it was tossed by the courts five years later. It was embarrassing to the state, a product of stubborn politicians who didn’t know any better and didn’t care about the consequences of their actions.

Now, half a century later, many of the students of that day are retired as everything from poets to business moguls to school teachers. And guess what? Hearing a few communist speakers didn’t mean the takeover of Chapel Hill by subversive forces. Well, most people feel that way, except for N.C. State fans.

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