Lukianoff Brings Fire to Lecture Celebrating First Amendment Freedoms

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

As part of a week celebrating First Amendment freedoms and a flagship lecture series, UNCW welcomed Greg Lukianoff, an attorney and president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), to campus on Tuesday.

UNCW’s Leadership Lecture Series invites speakers to discuss unique facets of leadership and, most importantly, to show that successful leaders listen and observe, even when opinions differ from their own.

In addition to leading FIRE, Lukianoff is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post; “CBS Evening News;” and “Fox & Friends.” The lauded advocate for free speech in higher education said his interest in the matter was sparked in 2001, when he noticed “how easy it is to get in trouble on a college campus.”  

“All of America is a free speech zone and students shouldn’t be afraid to speak because speech is knowing what other people think,” he said. He illustrated several trends that are “happening at the same time that give colleges a lot more to worry about,” such as banning an entire organization for the actions of one member; speech codes and one angry Twitter rant going viral.

About 1,000 cases are submitted to FIRE each year, which exists to defend the individual rights of America’s students and faculty members. In addition, it established a red/yellow/green light free speech rating system. UNCW is a “green light school,” meaning its policies do not seriously imperil speech.  

Lukianoff believes teaching students about the “complicated concept” of academic freedom and free speech should begin during orientation. “Be prepared to fight for your own freedom of speech and those of others,” he said, and warned oppressing speech can lead to cognitive distortions. “One bad date doesn’t mean you are destined to die alone,” he said. “Talk back to that voice.”

-- Caroline Cropp