UNC Board of Governors proposes “free speech” policy

CHAPEL HILL — The UNC Board of Governors have proposed a campus free speech policy that could lead to warnings, suspensions or expulsions for protesters who disrupt others at the state’s public universities.

The policy will go before the full board next month. Free speech has been a hot issue nationally, and locally, as protesters have waged battles about Confederate statues and other controversies.

The proposed UNC policy sets out a range of likely punishments for anyone – students, faculty or staff – who “substantially disrupts” the functioning of an institution or “substantially interferes” with the free expression rights of others. The presumptive sanctions include suspension for a second offense and student expulsion or employee dismissal for a third offense. An offending visitor could be temporarily or permanently barred from campus.

The policy provides that UNC campuses are open to any speaker invited by students, faculty or student groups, but that the universities have the right to impose “reasonable time, place and manner” restrictions. Campuses “may not take action, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day in such a way as to require students, faculty, or administrators to publicly express a given view of social policy.”

The legislature provides that the Board of Governors has a Committee on Free Expression that will meet to review annual reports on barriers to free speech, campus handling of disruptions and “any substantial difficulties, controversies, or successes in maintaining a posture of administrative and institutional neutrality with regard to political or social issues.”

The board was required to carry out the development of a free speech policy by the legislature earlier this year.


The 32 voting members of the Board of Governors for the University of North Carolina System are elected by the N.C. General Assembly for four-year terms. The UNC Board of Governors is the policy-making body charged with “the general determination, control, supervision, management, and governance” of the University of North Carolina system.

The Board of Governors has a dual role – maintaining the overall strength of the UNC system and addressing individual campus needs. The UNC president is chief administrative and executive officer, with authority to manage the affairs and execute the policies of the university system, subject to the direction of the Board of Governors.

The work of the president and Board of Governors is supported by a staff within the UNC General Administration. Each of the 17 campuses is headed by a chancellor, who is chosen by the Board of Governors on the president’s nomination and is responsible to the president.


W. Louis Bissette, Jr.
Board of Governors, Chairman

Term: 2015 – 2019

Harry L. Smith, Jr.
Board of Governors, Vice Chairman

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Budget and Finance Committee;
Strategic Initiatives Committee

Pearl Burris-Floyd
Board of Governors, Secretary

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Personnel and Tenure Committee, Secretary;
Strategic Initiatives Committee

Darrell Allison
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee, Secretary;
Strategic Initiatives Committee

Kellie Hunt Blue
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Audit, Risk Management and Compliance Committee, Vice Chair;
Budget and Finance Committee

Robert P. Bryan III
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee;
Strategic Initiatives Committee

C. Philip Byers
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: University Governance Committee

Carolyn L. Coward
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Audit, Risk Management and Compliance Committee;
Budget and Finance Committee, Secretary

N. Leo Daughtry
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Personnel and Tenure Committee;
Public Affairs Committee, Chair

Walter C. Davenport
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Audit, Risk Management and Compliance Committee;
Budget and Finance Committee, Vice Chair

Thomas H. Fetzer
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Budget and Finance Committee

Thom Goolsby
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee

H. Frank Grainger
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: University Governance Committee, Vice Chair

Tyler Hardin
Board of Governors, Ex Officio

Term: -4 – [Term 2017-2018]
Committees: Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee;
Strategic Initiatives Committee

James L. Holmes, Jr.
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Audit, Risk Management and Compliance Committee, Chair;
Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee

Joe Knott
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee, Vice Chair

W. Marty Kotis III
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee

Steven B. Long
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Strategic Initiatives Committee;
University Governance Committee, Chair

Ann Maxwell
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Strategic Initiatives Committee;
University Governance Committee, Secretary

J. Alex Mitchell
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Personnel and Tenure Committee;
Strategic Initiatives Committee, Chair

Wendy F. Murphy
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Personnel and Tenure Committee, Vice Chair;
Public Affairs Committee

Anna S. Nelson
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs Committee, Chair;
Strategic Initiatives Committee, Vice Chair

R. Doyle Parrish
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Personnel and Tenure Committee, Chair;
Strategic Initiatives Committee

David M. Powers
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Public Affairs Committee, Secretary;
University Governance Committee

Randall “Randy” Ramsey
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Strategic Initiatives Committee, Secretary;
University Governance Committee

Robert A. Rucho
Board of Governors

Term: 2017 – 2021
Committees: Budget and Finance Committee;
Public Affairs Committee

O. Temple Sloan III
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Budget and Finance Committee, Chair;
Public Affairs Committee, Vice Chair;
Strategic Initiatives Committee

William Webb
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Audit, Risk Management and Compliance Committee, Secretary;
University Governance Committee

Michael Williford
Board of Governors

Term: 2015 – 2019
Committees: Personnel and Tenure Committee