Free speech, uncontrolled by the government (or by the UNC system), is the most basic and precious right of Americans. Free political speech keeps the government in check. When it is eroded, even for the best of intentions, the foundation of democracy crumbles.
What the NC students wrote was reprehensible, but it provides a teaching moment for all of us involved in higher education: To enjoy freedom of speech, we have to suffer the utterance of fools. Otherwise, we risk being declared fools ourselves and being silenced when someone disagrees with what we say.
As has been said, and as the NC State case reminds us, the path to freedom of expression is traveled by the most unsavory of characters. But it must be open to all.
Mr. Towns is referring to a committee set up by UNC System President Erskine Bowles to consider hate crime policies after racist statements were written in the NC State "free speech tunnel." The state NAACP asked for the offending students to be expelled. The school said that the writing in the tunnel wasn't a crime and the students apologized. The conflict is the apparent reason for Bowles task force.
Any University that designates one area for "free speech" is already on a slippery slope. Does that mean the rest of the school is not a "free speech zone?"
The prosecution of people for "hate crimes" is positively Orewellian. They punish a citizen for what a jury can be convinced was going on in his head during the commission of a crime. Crime should be punished, not thoughts, no matter how repulsive.