The Free Expression Tunnel is a unique feature to NC State, but it has come under fire recently. A few jerks wrote some offensive racial comments in the tunnel after election night aimed at Barack Obama, but all the authorities brought in to investigate prevented them from being expelled and brought up on charges of “hate crimes,” since they wrote in a place that openly invites “Free Expression.” So now the entire UNC system is holding meetings to try to write new student codes to include “hate speech.”
NC State alumnus Jon Sanders at Carolina Journal today defends the Free Expression Tunnel as a thoroughly collegiate, adult approach to speech in a free society:
In short, the Free Expression Tunnel is a robust monument to free speech, one that looks even stouter in comparison with other universities’ fearful, flaccid approach to speech, where anything that might be construed as potentially disrupting someone’s comfort is the worst thing imaginable. With “Tuffy” the Strutting Wolf mascot swaggering about with his chest thrust out proudly, however, it would simply not do for the university he represented to be a panic of screaming mimis when it came to an offensive graffito. This is a research university containing many of the state’s highest minds, after all.
Sanders says that if UNC wishes to take a lesson from the Free Expression Tunnel to apply it to the entire system, then rather than use it as an example of why free expression cannot be tolerated by top thinkers in the state, it should be used as a model for how thinking people in a free society can learn to deal with speech, even if it offends them to the core:
Rather than wasting time hammering out speech policies that are bound to be unconstitutional and are demonstrably unnecessary anyway (some scribbles at one university on one day on a “free expression” wall means it’s high time to rewrite the speech codes throughout the whole system?), it would be much wiser to drop the issue entirely and let N.C. State students return to their time-tested, well-practiced way of dealing with free expression that’s offensive: ignore it, drown it out, or just clown it on the side. If UNC wants to export a lesson from the Free Expression Tunnel, what better lesson could they find? Imagine: UNC students systemwide able to deal with offensive ideas with aplomb rather than immediately being reduced to a mewling, quivering heap.