Eric Johnson : Free speech is healthy

February 23, 2014 

Free speech is a treasured American value, on campus and off. The writers of the Feb. 17 Point of View “Protecting students’ 1st Amendment rights” are right to defend it. But they want to legislate solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist.

In surveying 17 UNC campuses serving more than 200,000 students, the writers failed to find even one example of student speech being quashed. They cite decades-old controversies involving religious student groups and the right of free association, all of which sparked lively public debate and were resolved through existing rules and constitutional protections. Free speech is wonderfully messy, and civic debate and controversy are signs of health rather than distress. Calling for additional regulation at the state level may be well-intentioned, but it’s counterproductive.

So long as we have the First Amendment and students who believe in it, free speech on campus is in fine fettle.

Eric Johnson

Chapel Hill

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