(NEW YORK)— A proposed amendment to the University of North Carolina Policy Manual would chill campus free speech, PEN America said today in a letter to the University System Board of Governors opposing the change.

The change would ban every “employing subdivision or employment position within the University” from promoting any “divisive concepts” about race, gender and identity, discussing “matters of contemporary political debate or social action,” or offering any prescribed ‘view of social policy’ or ‘political controversies.”

Jeremy Young, Freedom to Learn program director at PEN America, wrote in the letter that while universities are free to adopt policies of institutional neutrality, UNC’s vague language and extremely broad interpretation of institutional neutrality “would cast a pall of orthodoxy over every campus in the system.”

Young wrote: “Could the School of Medicine, for instance, celebrate the success of award-winning surgeons of color, given that diversity has become a ‘contemporary political debate’? Could venues associated with the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at UNC Greensboro advertise themselves as LGBTQ+ friendly during Pride Month? Could the North Carolina Botanical Garden advertise its pursuit of renewable energy? … Could a sociology department organize a conference on race? If a faculty scholar of critical race theory wins an award for a peer-reviewed monograph, could the university publicize that fact?”

Read the letter and learn more about PEN America’s work advocating against educational censorship.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057