Forum on UNC hate speech held by commission

LGBT leaders urge students, faculty to speak out on anti-gay hate speech inclusion

by Lainey Millen  Special Assignments  specialassignments@goqnotes.com
Published: January 26, 2009 in News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A public forum by the University of North Carolina System for those individuals and organizations wishing to provide feedback on a proposed hate speech policy addition to the system’s student codes of conduct was held on Jan. 15 at the Spangler Center.

The forum was held by The University of North Carolina (UNC) Study Commission to Review Student Codes of Conduct as They Relate to Hate Crimes, a commission established last month by UNC President Erskine Bowles in response to post-election racist statements spray-painted in the “Free Expression Tunnel” at N.C. State University following the Nov. 5 election.

The commission, which includes students, staff and faculty from 10 UNC institutions, heard from its constituents who were mostly in support of adopting the policy in addition to the development of a University-wide requirement for diversity orientation for all first-time students. The group will forward its final recommendations to President Bowles no later than March 31. Commission recommendations will take into consideration federal and state Constitutional rights to free speech and will not infringe on those rights.

According to The Herald-Sun, emails sent to the Commission demonstrated that the “issue was complex and emotion for many citizens.”

The newspaper also reported that UNC-Chapel Hill senior Frank Sturges was the person who recommended the inclusion of a hate-crime policy and the diversity training institution. Sturges is one the directors of the week-long diversity conference Carolina United.

Equality NC Board Chair Hunter Corn also expressed his support for the policy. He also commented that the Commission’s formation could also address other issues as well, such as a N.C. State toilet tissue paper noose (which was discovered as a prank and was dismissed). He felt that anything the UNC system could do to rid the campus environment from intimidation was duty-bound.

Seven people who condemned comments proliferated at the tunnel, spoke at the forum saying that they were not in favor of creating a university policy to combat the situation. N.C.’s American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Katie Parker said that the spray-painted statements were First Amendment free speech protected and would be a way to create censorship. She felt that those who rallied against the negative comments, thus creating a forum for dialogue, demonstrated a better approach to.

A lion’s share of the emails received were varied in the approach that the school system should take, from the necessity of policies and training to that of regulating free speech.

For those who were unable to attend the forum and wish to provide input to the Commission or to secure more information, email study_commission@northcarolina.edu.