top of page

Newsletter Archive

April 15, 2024

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Recent reporting from NC Newsline indicates that “the dismantling of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts at UNC-Chapel Hill could begin in earnest as soon as this month.” Dave Boliek, chair of the Board of Trustees, told reporters that he is “going to advocate…for the removal of all DEI funding from the UNC-Chapel Hill budget.” The North Carolina State Legislature may soon move to curtail DEI as well. UNC Trustee Jim Blaine told NC Newsline that “he expects the legislature to follow Florida’s lead in banning DEI in the short session to begin in just weeks.”

March 13, 2024

To Tar Heels and Friends,

On March 26th, join UNC AFSA and the Student Free Speech Alliance in Chapel Hill for an evening with legal scholar and civil liberties activist Nadine Strossen. Strossen, the John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law Emerita at New York Law School, past President of the ACLU, and a Senior Fellow with FIRE, will discuss current free speech issues through a moderated interview followed by audience Q&A. Registration is available here.

In response to pressure from the Student Free Speech Alliance and UNC AFSA, the decision to deny Campus Life Experience (CLE) credit and Heel Life marketing privileges to a campus event featuring political commentator Candace Owens was reversed.

February 28, 2024

To Tar Heels and Friends,

On March 26th, join UNC AFSA and the Student Free Speech Alliance in Chapel Hill for an evening with legal scholar and civil liberties activist Nadine Strossen. Strossen, the John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law Emerita at New York Law School, past President of the ACLU (1991-2008), and a Senior Fellow with FIRE, will discuss current free speech issues through a moderated interview followed by audience Q&A. The event, which is part of George Mason University’s Voices for Liberty Initiative, will be co-sponsored by UNC’s Program for Public Discourse and the UNC Federalist Society. Registration is available here and on the UNC AFSA website.

February 17, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

UNC Alumni Free Speech Alliance works closely with the UNC Student Free Speech Alliance to promote free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity at UNC. Please read the statement below and take action to support UNC SFSA!

Immediate Review Requested: Denied Event Approval at UNC

My name is Harrington Shaw, and I am the president of the Student Free Speech Alliance at UNC-Chapel Hill. We are committed to protecting free expression, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity at UNC. This mission requires a strong commitment to the principle of institutional neutrality and staunch opposition to viewpoint discrimination. Both of these values are enshrined in UNC policy and First Amendment case law.

February 9, 2024

Last Wednesday, UNC AFSA welcomed social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt to campus. Co-sponsored by the Student Free Speech Alliance, Heterodox Heels, and the Program for Public Discourse, Haidt's lecture at the sold-out student union auditorium shed light on the challenges confronting Generation Z, how these challenges contribute to the campus free speech crisis, and the erosion of colleges' credibility with the American public.

January 24, 2024

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Last Monday night, a UNC Program for Public Discourse event featuring journalists Frank Bruni and Bari Weiss was disrupted by protesters. Prior to the event, a Twitter/X post by UNC’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine advertised plans to protest at the event, stating that “Bari Weiss and her lies are NOT welcomed on campus!” Video from the event shows masked protesters entering the back of the student union auditorium and shouting over the panel of speakers. This behavior underscores a broader problem on college campuses: rather than engaging in reasoned debate, many students feel entitled to use force to stifle speech with which they disagree.

January 19, 2024

To Tar Heels and Friends,

On February 7th, join UNC AFSA and the Student Free Speech Alliance in Chapel Hill for an evening with social psychologist and professor Jonathan Haidt. Haidt, author of The Coddling of the American Mind, will discuss dynamics that are reshaping university campuses, explore America's dwindling trust in higher education, and offer suggestions as to what academic institutions must do to regain society’s confidence. The event will be co-sponsored by Heterodox Heels and the Program for Public Discourse. Registration is available here and on the UNC AFSA website.

January 2, 2024

To Tar Heels and Friends,
Higher education institutions have been at the center of free speech and institutional neutrality debates since the October 7th attacks in Israel. John Tomasi, president of Heterodox Academy, wrote in a recent letter that “there was profound hypocrisy in the spectacle of prominent university presidents claiming to be staunchly committed to free expression, when their own institutions have been anything but.” Tomasi notes the long list of speakers who have been disinvited from college campuses for their political views, causing the free speech commitments espoused by university presidents in Congress to ring hollow. Colleges must protect free speech for all – not just those for whom it is politically convenient.

December 13, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,
In a victory for free speech at UNC, the Undergraduate Student Government agreed to remove viewpoint-discriminatory policies from the Undergraduate Senate Budget Act. After going through the student organization funding process, UNC AFSA’s student group affiliate, the Student Free Speech Alliance, found that the university was making funding determinations based on criteria including DEI, “sustainability,” and “representation.” SFSA officers and faculty advisor Mark McNeilly noted the violation of established law on free speech to university leaders, and all viewpoint-discriminatory criteria were eventually struck from school policy.

November 22, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

A recent article in The News & Observer covers Heather Mac Donald’s meeting with the UNC Board of Trustees following her November 7th event with UNC AFSA. Mac Donald discussed the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action with the board, commending UNC leadership for passing a resolution “to prohibit the university from considering ‘race, sex, color or ethnicity’ in hiring and admissions.” Mac Donald “asserted that the consideration of race in admissions led to unqualified and ill-prepared students of color being admitted to competitive, elite universities — something UNC denied it was doing throughout its almost decadelong defense of its admissions policy.” Relatedly, new model legislation from The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal provides a blueprint for states to bring their admissions policies into compliance with the recent Supreme Court ruling, placing special emphasis on transparency, non-discrimination, and mandatory test score submission for applicants.

November 3, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Please RSVP to join UNC AFSA and Heather Mac Donald this Tuesday, November 7th, for an event on "The Future of Humanistic Education after the Affirmative Action Ruling." The policy landscape surrounding affirmative action and admissions is rapidly changing, and civil debate is essential to guide our decisions. This event will allow UNC student, alumni, and leadership to hear a unique perspective and insightful questions as we deliberate the future of fairness and meritocracy.

October 23, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Protests erupted on campus on October 10th as Pro-Palestine and pro-Israel groups clashed on the steps of Wilson Library. According to WRAL, what was branded as a “‘resistance rally’ for Palestine began peaceful but turned contentious.” The two groups began shouting at each other, and an Israeli professor was escorted away by police after he was “pushed down the stairs.” Demonstrators were later seen “fighting over which flag could be flown at the protest.” While the rights of all students to protest must be protected, physical violence and heckler’s vetoes are not protected speech.

September 20, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

UNC dropped to #174 out of 250 schools in the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s 2024 campus free speech rankings. FIRE’s analysis relies heavily on campus climate measures, and the findings raise grave concerns about the state of free speech at UNC. 84 percent of respondents said they feel pressure to avoid discussing controversial topics on campus, with 59 percent of students stating they are “somewhat” or “very” uncomfortable expressing their views on controversial topics in class. Furthermore, 40 percent of students say that it is “always” or “sometimes” acceptable to shout down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus, and 15 percent say it is “always” or “sometimes” acceptable to use violence to stop a campus speech.

August 17, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

In an article for the James G. Martin Center, Ashylnn Warta details UNC administrators’ responses to a DEI questionnaire from the chancellor which asked, in part, “what can you do to stand against structural racism and stand for equity within our/your school/unit?” Responses included a request from the journalism school to alter the university’s “definition of diversity,” as viewpoint diversity and racial equity initiatives “cannot sit side by side without coming into conflict.” The content of the questionnaire, which was sent in July 2020, shows a concerning disregard for the principles of institutional neutrality. For free inquiry to flourish on campus, faculty and students must not feel pressured to conform to administrators’ political viewpoints.

July 3, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

In January 2023, UNC launched its “DEI Strategic Plan” for the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). Several of the action items in the plan raised significant institutional neutrality, compelled speech, and academic freedom concerns. In particular, UNC AFSA board members were troubled by plans to “require . . . annual DEI education activities for all faculty and staff” and to “formalize inclusion and recognition of DEI as service within staff and faculty review processes.” Harrington Shaw’s article for the James G. Martin Center further details the troubling nature of the initiative.

July 13, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

A recent Martin Center article by Jenna Robinson revealed a disappointing disregard for institutional neutrality at UNC. According to Robinson, recent UNC DEI initiatives that “undermine the principles of free speech” may stem from correspondence from the chancellor’s office that required campus leaders to state what their educational units will “do to stand against structural racism and stand for equity.” Demands of this nature threaten the spirit of free inquiry among faculty, many of whom will understandably fear that raising questions about DEI protocols, free speech, and institutional neutrality will land them in trouble with administrators.

July 20, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

A recent James G. Martin Center article by Ashlynn Warta details concerning DEI practices at UNC. Between 2020 and 2023, UNC held 207 DEI trainings, 32 of which were “required.” Mandatory DEI trainings raise significant concerns with regard to institutional neutrality and compelled speech. As Warta writes, “while DEI is often presented as well-intentioned, the results are divisive.” The university’s sanctioning of controversial political positions limits faculty members’ willingness to engage in important conversations and academic work, chilling speech and intellectual exchange on campus. However, Warta states that NC Senate Bill 364 will likely preclude the university from requiring DEI trainings in the future.

August 2, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

We are pleased to share that the Alumni Free Speech Alliance has welcomed four new alumni groups to the network. The addition of the Cal Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, the Columbia Free Speech Alliance, Michigan State Alumni for Free Speech, and the Boston University Free Speech Alliance brings the total number of allied alumni organizations to 20.

June 19, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

UNC’s proposed School of Civic Life and Leadership continues to draw national attention, with a recent Fox News article by Pete Peterson mentioning the program as one of several around the country dedicated to promoting viewpoint diversity and free speech on campus. He writes that the school is part of policymakers’ “creative approach to promoting free speech on campus,” noting specifically that UNC’s new school will “offer coursework for undergrads as well as serve as a center for public debates and conversations.” Similar programs are also being developed and launched in Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Ohio.

June 5, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

In the wake of the UNC system’s compelled speech ban, the North Carolina House has passed its own prohibition of compelled speech. According to Kevin Garcia-Galindo’s Carolina Journal article, House Bill 607 will “extend and codify protections from compelled speech for students and college applicants in North Carolina” by “[preventing] colleges and Universities from using Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) questions in their job and student applications.” The bill sets an excellent framework for viewpoint diversity, prohibiting universities from forcing students to adopt particular positions and banning ideological discrimination in hiring. House Bill 607 now awaits consideration by the Senate.

May 22, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

In a major development for academic freedom and free speech, the UNC School of Medicine rejected the recommendations of its “Task Force to Integrate Social Justice into the Curriculum.”

This initiative would have subjected hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions to DEI scrutiny. The decision comes on the heels of advocacy by Color Us United, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, UNC AFSA, and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

April 28, 2023

UNC AFSA Annual Report – 2022-23

Dear UNC Alumni Free Speech Alliance Members and Tar Heel Friends,

Last month we (UNC AFSA or the Alliance) completed our first full year of operation as a 501(c)(3) non-profit alumni organization dedicated to our mission of free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

April 21, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Part of the UNC Alumni Free Speech Alliance’s mission is to keep in touch with decision makers, directly advocating for free expression and academic freedom on campus. Our board of directors recently wrote a letter to UNC School of Medicine Dean Wesley Burks regarding the continued use of DEI statements for hiring, promotion and tenure at the medical school. UNC policy both forbids compelled speech and requires institutional neutrality, and School of Medicine initiatives clearly run afoul of these obligations. Specifically, the AFSA board notes that the medical school’s “Task Force to Integrate Social Justice into the Curriculum” fails to uphold the principles stated in the Kalvan Committee Report, including that “to perform its mission in the society, a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures.” UNC AFSA urged the School of Medicine to “revisit and rescind” many of the task force’s recommendations.

April 10, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

We recently celebrated the UNC Board of Trustees’ official adoption of the system-wide policy prohibiting compelled speech. In the words of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, “the right to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complementary components of the broader concept of ‘individual freedom of mind.’” A.P. Dillon’s article for the North State Journal describes the meaning and implications of the new UNC compelled speech policy. She notes that the primary impact will be removal of procedures for admissions, hiring, and tenure that require or favor particular political or ideological viewpoints. According to the article, Provost Chris Clemens stated that these changes will “mostly be completed within a month.”

March 25, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Thursday, the UNC Board of Trustees took another positive step to protect free speech and open inquiry at Carolina. The board officially affirmed the BOG’s recent resolution prohibiting compelled speech, confirming its commitment to institutional neutrality, meritocracy, and the prohibition of compelled speech for UNC employees and applicants. ACTA Director of Alumni Advocacy Bryan Paul stated that UNC is “setting the example for what [higher education] admin and trustees can do to protect and advance free expression, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity on campus.”

March 17, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Last week, a Stanford Law School event featuring Fifth Circuit appellate court judge Kyle Duncan fell victim to the “heckler’s veto.” Protesters repetitively disrupted the talk, preventing Duncan from speaking to event attendees. The Washington Free Beacon reported that Stanford’s diversity dean arrived on the scene after Duncan requested that an administrator quell the disruptions, only to join in with the protestors by lamenting the “harm” of his speech.

March 3, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Last week was a big week for free speech at UNC.

First, we had the pleasure of welcoming Douglas Murray to UNC AFSA’s first on-campus event. Earlier in the same day, the UNC Board of Governors passed their resolution banning compelled speech. This has wide policy implications, with everything from mandatory diversity statements for faculty hires and student admissions to DEI departments now likely to be more closely scrutinized, as noted in the Fox News article linked below.

February 5, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Our campus political bodies have been highly active the past two weeks, with the Board of Governors, Board of Trustees, and South Building engaged in a number of key policy developments.

In a major decision, the UNC Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution to accelerate the development of a new school of Civic Life and Leadership, intended to promote civil discourse and viewpoint diversity in liberal arts and social science curricula. Significant turmoil has ensued between the trustees and the faculty, with the latter claiming that they should have complete control over development of schools and curricula. While opponents have cried foul over such purported deviations from typical governance practices, it appears that much of the disdain for the proposed program is ideologically motivated.

January 5, 2023

To Tar Heels and Friends,

As public trust in universities’ ability to uphold the values of free expression and viewpoint diversity fades, a number of prudent academics are taking a stand to protect free speech at their institutions. A column written by a group of university presidents details their work with the Virginia Council of Presidents to craft a statement on prioritizing free expression. The statement proclaims that “free expression is the fundamental basis for both academic freedom and for effective teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom.” We hope to see positive changes in the University of Virginia System that reflect these sentiments.

December 15, 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

UNC’s adoption of the Chicago Principles was an important step towards solidifying free speech rights on campus. An article written by former Secretary of the U.S. Senate Kelly Johnston describes the shift away from free speech and towards cancel-culture at universities and businesses across the country, and how the example set by the University of Chicago is a valuable tool in reestablishing First Amendment principles.

November 28, 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

UNC AFSA is proud to have been a co-sponsor of the “Stanford Academic Freedom Conference” hosted by Stanford University on November 4-5. The conference featured prominent academics and researchers, focusing on cancel-culture, political conformity, and the threat to truth-seeking research.

Notable participants at the event included social psychologist and NYU professor Jonathan Haidt, economist and University of Chicago professor John H. Cochrane, and entrepreneur and Stanford Alumnus Peter Thiel. Also featured were numerous professors and distinguished invitees, all of whom offered compelling commentary on the direction of higher education, academic freedom, and the politicization of universities.

November 17, 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Last week, a Cornell University event featuring political commentator, author, and Cornell alumna Ann Coulter fell victim to the heckler’s veto. After a student petition aimed to disinvite Coulter was unsuccessful, protesters entered the event and shouted over the speaker. These disruptions were successful, as Coulter was only able to speak for seven minutes of the allotted thirty. While the university pledged to take proper disciplinary action against the involved students, this incident demonstrates the persistent anti-free speech sentiment on college campuses.

October 27, 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Institutional neutrality is a value to be lauded by proponents of viewpoint diversity and open inquiry. To foster an environment in which students and faculty feel free to share their personal thoughts and ideas, there must not be top-down ideological pressures imposed by university departments, offices, and administrations.

Despite its self-evident value, many, including former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, see institutional neutrality as a mechanism of somehow silencing faculty. UNC AFSA board member Frank Hill’s recent article for the North State Journal critiques Thorp’s disingenuous claims about diversity of thought on a politically neutral campus, noting that the optimal campus climate is one that welcomes the widest variety of opinions and in which no students or faculty members fear political ostracization.

October 14, 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Recently, the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy held a “celebration” to commemorate First Amendment Day. Unfortunately, this promising event was derailed by panelists who seemed more interested in condemning the first amendment than celebrating it. Jonathan Turley’s article on the matter highlighted a number of concerning remarks from the panelists, and noted that no panelest opposed the backwards interpretations of free speech espoused at the event. Turley does an excellent job exposing the echo chamber that is eroding the foundation of the university, and his piece is worth a close read.

September 22, 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

As you may know, UNC Chapel Hill has recently taken steps to codify campus free speech rights by affirming their commitment to the Chicago Principles and institutional neutrality. These are positive developments, but the fight for an open and intellectually diverse campus is far from over. This month, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) released their 2022-2023 College Free Speech Rankings. Their report details free speech metrics at over 200 US colleges and universities, and it provides a useful roadmap for our mission at UNC. While Chapel Hill received a modestly high overall ranking of 26th, several metrics expose concerningly poor performance. For example, only 28% of students consider shoulding down a speaker to prevent them from sharing their viewpoint on campus to be unacceptable. Furthermore, UNC exhibited a lackluster performance in the “comfort expressing ideas” category, placing 101st.

September 8 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Our advocacy for freedom of speech, viewpoint diversity, and academic freedom necessitates thorough communication with our supporters. Our newsletter is a wonderful format for bringing news, announcements, and updates to our subscribers, and we appreciate our readership! That said, we have expanded our communication channels to broaden our audience and engage with students and faculty on campus.

UNC AFSA is now active on four major social media sites. We encourage you to visit them through the links below and share our pages with friends and family! On these sites, you will find original AFSA posts with news and information about the fight for free speech. We will also provide curated content from similarly oriented organizations, including FIRE, the Program for Public Discourse, other chapters of the Alumni Free Speech Association, and more!

September 1, 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Universities are meant to serve as places of open inquiry and free expression, as both are requisite for the pursuit of truth. Threats to an open campus climate are threats to the vitality of the university.

Unfortunately, recent developments at UNC threaten the open discourse and academic freedom that are necessary for a thriving educational institution. Last week, The Daily Tar Heel unpublished a controversial op-ed at the request of its undergraduate author after he claimed that his family had been threatened by several people in response to his article. Jenna Robinson penned a response on the UNC AFSA website, lamenting the “culture of intolerance” among students at UNC.

August 6, 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

In the past few weeks, UNC has struggled to maintain institutional neutrality amid controversy over the ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Several department officials opined on the matter through official university channels, and newly-elected Student Body President Taliajah Vann issued an executive order prohibiting the student government from contracting with organizations that oppose “reproductive freedom.” Obviously, both instances constitute failures to uphold institutional neutrality. The latter likely violates basic first amendment protections, as student government funds are raised through mandatory student fees.

June 30, 2022

To Tar Heels and Friends,

Welcome to the inaugural monthly Newsletter of the UNC Alumni Free Speech Alliance. UNC AFSA’s mission is to support and defend free speech, viewpoint diversity, and academic freedom at UNC-Chapel Hill. We are members of a national organization formed with the same goals. Alumni Alliances are springing up all over the country at many of America’s best colleges and universities.

In addition to a monthly Newsletter, we will occasionally share University and national news & opinion relating to our mission and Carolina. We promise to go easy on your mailbox, and we encourage you to get in touch with us with your views and relevant news. There are many ongoing positive developments at UNC-Chapel Hill and across the country concerning free speech, as well as other less positive developments that the best fiction writers couldn’t imagine.

April 30, 2022 - Inagural Newsletter

Welcome to the new website of UNC’s Alumni Alliance, Our formal name is UNC Alumni Free Speech Alliance or UNC AFSA. We explain the name below. If you have received this post, you’ve already given us your email address, indicating an interest in membership. If you know of others who might be interested, please forward this email to her or him.

The mission of the Alumni Alliance is to further the mission of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The mission of America’s oldest state university is best described in our motto, Lux Libertas. Think about it; do your own research; as starting points, we will only offer the words “truth, light, and liberty.”

bottom of page