Under the Dome

January 7, 2014

Two NC campuses on worst free speech list

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, put Appalachian State University and UNC-Chapel Hill on its list of campuses that ran afoul of speech freedoms last year. The group, which advocates for basic liberties in higher education, released its 2013 "10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech" list.

Universities love to tout college rankings, but here’s a top-ten list that two North Carolina campuses won’t like.

A group that advocates for basic liberties in higher education has picked two UNC-system campuses for its 2013 “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, put Appalachian State University and UNC-Chapel Hill on its list of campuses that ran afoul of speech freedoms last year.

The advocacy group cited the two universities for specific cases that made headlines.

At Appalachian State, trustees denied an appeal of a sociology professor, Jammie Price, who was disciplined after students complained that she made disparaging remarks about athletes and showed a film about the pornography industry. The campus had been in the midst of a controversy about alleged sexual assault by ASU athletes. A faculty panel had backed Price, saying the administration had violated her academic freedom and due process rights. FIRE said the university’s trustees had sent a message to professors that their job was safe “only so long as they don’t discuss controversial subjects in their classrooms.”

The group also pointed to UNC-CH, where the student-run honor court had lodged disciplinary charges against student Landen Gambill for “intimidating behavior” when she discussed the university’s handling of her sexual assault case against another student. The charge was later dropped when the policy was deemed constitutionally problematic, but FIRE said the Gambill charge had been “unfathomable and sadly preventable.”

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