Around Campus

Faculty Council passes resolution on free speech

After presentations by constitutional law experts, faculty members voted Sept. 9 to affirm their “right and duty” to exercise academic freedom.

Michael Gerhardt
(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The issue of free speech dominated the agenda of the first Faculty Council meeting of the academic year, a hybrid meeting on Sept. 9 with members meeting online and in person at Kerr Hall.

“When I bring up a problem that is occurring on this campus, it’s because I deeply love this place,” said Chair Mimi Chapman in framing the topic in her remarks. In talking with faculty members, she said they had expressed confusion about “political activity” versus “speaking about issues that have become politicized.”

She narrowed the focus of the discussion to faculty speech and introduced two constitutional law experts, both professors at the School of Law, to guide the conversation.

Michael Gerhardt, Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, spoke on faculty speech and the First Amendment. Faculty members are government employees whose free speech is protected “to the fullest extent of the law” when they speak as citizens and not as representatives of the University. “That’s the realm in which you will have the greatest protection,” Gerhardt said.

Eric Muller, Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor in Jurisprudence and Ethics, presented the draft resolution on faculty speech. After clarifying that it covered all faculty members, regardless of designation, and adding wording about faculty safety, the faculty passed a resolution that stated:

  • Faculty members should be entitled to indicate their university affiliation in all expression related to their research, teaching and service, so long as they do not indicate that they speak for the University as an institution.
  • The University and its leaders must actively and publicly advocate for faculty safety and defend the rights of faculty members to speak and write on all matters within the ambit of their research, teaching and service.

In other action, Faculty Council heard an update from Christopher Clemens, provost and chief academic officer, in which he talked about “building a team for faculty and faculty advancement.” Some additions and changes to that team include:

  • Erin Malloy, director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, is associate provost for faculty development and success.
  • Lachonya Thompson, formerly of the College of Arts and Sciences, is assistant provost for faculty affairs.
  • Meg Zomorodi of the School of Nursing is associate provost for interprofessional health initiatives.
  • Christian Lundberg of the communication department in the College of Arts and Sciences is vice provost for communication.
  • Darin Padua of the department of exercise and sport science in the College of Arts and Sciences is associate provost for academic operations.

View the recording of the Sept. 9 Faculty Council meeting.