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ADF letter prompts UNC-Pembroke to eliminate unconstitutional speech permit, zone restrictions

PEMBROKE, N.C. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a student group at the University of North Carolina, Pembroke, have secured revised policies from university officials that drop unconstitutional restrictions to students’ freedom of speech. UNCP’s previous policies had limited speech activities to small zones within the public campus community, required prior approval for literature distribution, and held that university administrators could ban content they deemed “offensive.”

“Free speech without fear of punishment is a core constitutionally protected freedom that our nation’s public universities should respect,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “We commend YAL students for standing up for the free marketplace of ideas on their campus. We also commend UNCP for quickly revising its policies to ensure that the next generation of students can speak freely and peacefully, regardless of their viewpoint, without fear of penalties.” 

During the fall 2017 semester, Young Americans for Liberty at UNCP, a chapter affiliate of the national organization, began to recruit additional members in order to be recognized as a student organization. YAL also hosted a free speech event where students could write pro-free-speech messages on a large beach ball and collect information from prospective members. After planning the event, YAL members discovered they had violated several university speech restrictions. While UNCP did not punish the group, YAL remained subject to the policies.

In response, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom sent a letter to UNCP regarding its unconstitutional speech permits and zones. In response to the ADF letter, the university agreed to review its policy and suspend all enforcement so that students knew they were free to speak outside the speech zone in the interim.

In February, UNCP issued a robust revision to their previous policies and stated the following: “Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as limiting the right of student expression elsewhere in the outdoor, publicly available areas of campus. This includes the right to engage in spontaneous, unregistered expression.”

“It’s encouraging to see students stand up for the Constitution on their campuses,” said YAL President Cliff Maloney, Jr. “I commend UNCP for working with YAL and ADF to revise their unconstitutional campus speech codes and serve as a model for others.”

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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