North Carolina State University has a problem with the First Amendment, at least according to some recent statements and concerns aired by the governing student body.
The school’s student government held a town hall-style meeting last week. The topic? How to improve the school’s “racial climate” and foster a “safe learning environment”. The school’s Diversity Outreach Department was on hand and promoted the idea of changing the established Student Code of Conduct. The suggested changes included “repercussions for hate speech.”
The recent “Racial Climate Town Hall” was produced by the school’s Diversity Outreach Department, a division of the student government, according to the university’s own student paper, the Technician. During the meeting, the leaders of the student body outlined several improvements the school should take to improve the racial climate on campus. The demands included amending the official and already established Student Code of Conduct, require mandatory “cultural competence training” and a modification and restructuring of the school’s Bias Incident Response Team.
The student leaders sought to change the Code of Conduct, despite the protections afforded to all students – and all citizens – by the First Amendment. If the students succeed, “hate speech” and “acts of bigotry” will trigger a variety of punishments for both faculty or students. This is an obvious violation of the faculty and student body’s First Amendment rights. These rights are afforded to all United States citizens by the Constitution and this publicly funded school could move to take them away, based on the demands of a group of governing student leaders.
While the violation of the First Amendment is already a significant issue, the way that the Diversity Outreach Department plans on changing the Code of Conduct is also troubling. Specific language would be included that would include real repercussions for what they determine are hateful words. The problem is that “hate” would be defined by the same body that is already proposing a suspension of the First Amendment for those on campus.
With real repercussions attached for students and no real guidelines as to what “hate language” consists of, the Diversity Outreach Department would like to have the ability to suspend students from the university if they find their speech to be inappropriate. According to Breitbart, the publicly funded school has a policy in place for underage drinking. Someone caught drinking three times face suspension from school. The new plan would trigger this same sanction for someone found to be using “hateful” speech.
While the blatant free speech violation is of primary concern for most, the group also hopes to make what they call cultural competency training mandatory for every student entering the school. First year students would have to complete a program before being permitted to start school in the fall. This program would be repeated in the spring at an intermediate level and then again in later years.
Lastly, the school already has a “Bias Incident Response Team,”, but the proposed measures would make this group and its resources more visible on campus. The main goal of this group and the increased visibility is to make it easy for students to report others for speech violations.
According to the school, these ideas are in further development and the question of who would determine the words, phrases or actions that are considered “hate speech” is unknown. The school has made no statement regarding the First Amendment and the protections its own students and faculties are entitled to under the US Constitution.