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A Right to Speak and to Hear: Academic Freedom and Free Expression at UNC

On June 26, 1963 North Carolina's lawmakers approved a bill that came to be known as the Speaker Ban. The law forbade Communists and others critical of the United States government from speaking on the campuses of North Carolina's publicly-funded universities and colleges. The Speaker Ban's passage drew almost immediate reaction from students and faculty, who protested that the law infringed on their rights to free speech.  Students eventually initiated a lawsuit, and the Speaker Ban law was overturned in 1968.

While the controversy surrounding the Speaker Ban may be the most well-known test of academic freedom on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, it was not the first nor the last. For much of its history, UNC has been both praised and criticized for fostering an environment that supports freedom in teaching and learning.  At times campus leaders have been praised for upholding these principles. At other times, they have received criticism for limiting expression. Pressure from outside the campus's rock walls has occasionally played a part in the debates. This exhibition, which marks the 50th anniversary of passage of the Speaker Ban, examines events that tested the University's commitment to academic freedom and free expression.