Institutional Neutrality and Free Speech

In 2023, the General Assembly passed Session Law 2023-102 which states new and amended requirements for the “Institutional Neutrality” of East Carolina University. First, existing N.C. Gen. Stat. § 116-300 is amended to add a new subdivision (3a) that reads: “The constituent institution shall remain neutral, as an institution, on the political controversies of the day.” Further, existing Section 3 is amended to read: “The constituent institution shall not require students, faculty, or administrators to publicly express a given view of social policy.”

This new law means that ECU employees should refrain from making any statement that takes a position on a controversial issue on behalf of the University or through University social media accounts or web sites.

However, the First Amendment protects the right of all students and employees to express their personal opinions. As has always been the case, when our faculty and staff express a personal opinion, they should make it clear they are speaking as private citizens and not as representatives of East Carolina University and take care that their speech does not compromise the neutrality, efficiency or integrity of the University or any University department or unit.

Faculty members are also entitled to academic freedom in the classroom when discussing issues related to their course, including controversial topics, but should be careful not to introduce controversial topics that are unrelated to the curriculum.

Because students rarely speak as official representatives of East Carolina University, the law should have little to no impact on our student body.