Civility encouraged, no longer required

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Bob Kellogg (

After receiving a letter from a nonprofit educational foundation devoted to free speech, individual liberty, religious freedom and rights of conscience, North Carolina State has announced a revision to its policy that required students "to speak to each other in a civil manner."


Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says the Supreme Court long ago determined that the dissemination of ideas cannot be shut off, even if they are offensive or hurtful to others. A resident advisor at the university contacted his organization because he was uncomfortable with the policy.

"He didn't feel good about giving students a mandatory statement about civility and then being in charge of enforcing that himself as a state employee," Shibley shares. "He felt like that would be the wrong thing to do constitutionally, and he was right to come to us."

The FIRE senior vice president contends it is important to correct these free speech matters on campuses, because such restrictions can spill over into society at large.

"We're teaching our students in universities that liberty is something to be feared and something to be regulated rather than a way to order a society in a way that helps everybody be free," he laments.

Now, rather than requiring students to endorse civil speech policies, NC State says it hopes students will do so voluntarily.

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