To Members of the North Carolina Board of Governors:
My name is Anna Beavon Gravely, and I am the North Carolina Spokeswoman for Generation Opportunity. Generation Opportunity is a nonpartisan grassroots group that gives younger Americans a platform to advocate for more freedom and opportunity. On behalf of our supporters in both North Carolina and around the country, I urge you to vote to implement House Bill 527 – Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech – which will protect the First Amendment rights of young North Carolinians on state college campuses.
The law’s passage earlier this year represented a major milestone for North Carolina, whose public university system has not always shined when it comes to protecting free speech rights on campus. As a member of the Board of Governors, you now have an extraordinary opportunity before you to change the culture on college and university campuses across our state by voting to implement the law.
Defending the First Amendment and promoting free speech and free expression on college campuses are universally-backed concepts. Former U.S. President Barack Obama may have said it best when he told an audience at Howard University last year; “Don’t try to shut folks out. Don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them. Listen, engage, if the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them, teach them, beat them on the battlefield of ideas.”
Echoing Mr. Obama was former Vice President Joe Biden, who told an audience at the University of Delaware earlier this year that “we hurt ourselves badly when we don’t allow the speech to take place … And to shut it down in the name of what is appropriate is simply wrong. It’s wrong… if your idea is big enough, it should be able to compete and you should be able to listen to another point of view, as virulent as it may be, and reject it, expose it,” the former Vice President added.
Finally, in the words of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “Respectful and reasoned dialogue is essential in a democratic society, and its survival depends on leaders — inside and outside government — who will vigorously and unflinchingly defend the rights of speakers with unpopular viewpoints.”
Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden, and Mr. Bloomberg are all 100 percent correct. Unfortunately, so are the students at various UNC campuses, who have written about how their First Amendment rights are being violated, threatened or censored on campus. You can see their stories below:
Alexander Kuppler – University of North Carolina at Wilmington
James Holbrook – University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Jocelyn Ganzert – High Point University
Megan Cooke – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Joe Warta – Wake Technical Community College
Michael DeSantis – University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Alexander, James, Jocelyn, Megan, Joe, Michael and numerous others are counting on you to help ensure that North Carolina’s universities are places where free speech is allowed to flourish.
Protecting the constitutional right to free speech will ensure that our higher education system continues to be a place where free expression is welcome and true intellectual diversity thrives. On behalf of Generation Opportunity, our supporters, and the students mentioned above, I urge you to implement the law (House Bill 527 – Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech) passed by the North Carolina General Assembly.
Anna Beavon Gravely