Appalachian was recently recognized as a “green light” campus for protecting free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Last year, Appalachian was ranked as a “yellow light” campus, meaning existing speech policies either restricted speech or were worded so vaguely they could be interpreted as doing so. Appalachian is one of 35 schools with a green rating.
FIRE is an advocacy group that monitors university student conduct codes to ensure they do not have a potential to infringe on students free speech rights.
Laura Beltz, a program officer with FIRE, said Appalachian worked with them in rewriting their policies.
“Appalachian State had several yellow light rated policies on the books previously, but worked with FIRE to revise all of them to our green light standards, and as a result currently earns our overall green light rating,” Beltz said. “Those previous yellow light policies included a harassment/discrimination/retaliation policy, a computer use policy, and a facility use policy.”
Michael Behrent, an associate history professor and chapter president of the Appalachian American Association of University Professors, said AAUP also works to ensure free speech on college campuses, and will investigate incidents where a university has violated academic freedoms.
Behrent said FIRE approaches the issue of free speech with a more libertarian bent than AAUP, but that the work they do protecting freedom of expression is still appreciated.
“I think they are concerned about academic freedom, but I think that like some of the people in our legislature, they are very concerned with when talking about academic freedom, about making sure that certain student protest groups or certain leftist groups they might see as favoring political correctness don’t get an outsized say on campus issues,” Behrent said.
Behrent said protecting free speech is incredibly important to a university’s mission and he is glad that administration is taking a stand to be sure that happens.
“As part of a professor’s professional responsibility to teach and engage and research, they should be governed by no other standards than their sense of professional consciousness and the standards of their profession,” Behrent said. “This is not a license to say whatever they want exactly, but it’s an argument that if being a professor is about the pursuit of knowledge, there should not be external constraints on that.”
Story by; Jackie Park, Intern News Reporter