I feel nothing short of frustration when continually running into the wall of free speech censorship on University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s campus. Fortunately, our lawmakers are catching on to the fact that college campuses are not what they used to be and have introduced a bill in the North Carolina House and Senate (HB527 and SB507) that would protect and preserve free speech on public college campuses.
There have been some moments of hope of respect and tolerance, only to be dashed by even more censorship.
UNC-Wilmington will not allow organizations without an official campus sponsor to table on campus, despite UNC-Wilmington’s public university status.
While tabling in open areas on campus, I have been asked to move to “free speech zones” or asked to leave the campus completely by authorities who cannot explain why there are certain places on campus where I am “free” to express the opinions and beliefs of educational organizations not sponsored by the university.
This is extremely frustrating, especially when I’m told I must remain within a certain area or I am kicked off campus by someone with a clipboard citing some university policy that makes very little sense.
In the last few months, UNC-Wilmington’s Chancellor has stood up against the idea of “safe spaces” and reminded students that this university is a place where ideas are meant to be shared. Just because someone has an idea or belief you don’t agree with doesn’t mean that they don’t have a right to say it.
While there is still a long way to go to protect free speech on UNC-Wilmington’s campus, the Chancellor’s recent statements give me hope that real respect for those unpopular opinions, whether expressed by me or someone I disagree with, is on its way to not only UNC-Wilmington’s campus, but also every public university in North Carolina.
It’s time we support our lawmakers and urge them to pass free speech legislation into law and protect students’ rights to express their beliefs and opinions on campuses across the state.
Alexander Kuppler is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He is currently studying political science and is minoring economics, public administration, and non-profit management and leadership.