Freedom of speech is a longstanding issue on public university campuses. The presence of political speech, discriminatory jokes and religious propaganda have all been questioned and defended. On Thursday, Sept. 27, UNC Charlotte added another point of contention to the debate over free speech on college campuses. In an email to Moore Hall residents, the Resident Coordinator warned students they could face conduct charges for placing any sort of display in their windows.
The rule comes from the Housing and Residence policy, which states, “Decorations, including but not limited to posters, flags, signs, writings, stickers and banners, are not permitted on windows in residential rooms, residential hallways or in residential lounges within University residence halls.” It is a policy that was added this year.
Moore Hall resident Nathan Klinge commented, “This is a new rule that I find absurd in that it isn’t a safety issue nor a vandalism issue. A flag I simply have taped to my wall that is visible outside is no longer allowed, and I was told by an RA in my dorm that students can face expulsion from the dorm if flags/signs are not removed.”
The email came after the Assistant Director who manages the student conduct process for Housing and Residence Life observed some window policy violations in Moore Hall and a few other buildings. Kimberly Tullos, Director of Residence Life, clarified that it wasn’t due to any one isolated incident in Moore Hall, but rather in response to “a trend of students not following policy.” She also assured that it wasn’t a ban specifically on flags.
However, an incident in October 2016 in which a Hunt Hall resident displayed a Nazi flag in their window may have set the precedent for the new rule. Chancellor Dubois addressed the situation in his 2017 convocation address, stating, “When a student decided last year to post a Nazi flag in his residence hall window, we used that incident as an opportunity both to protect his free speech rights… but also to have a conversation with that student to help him fully understand the true impact of displaying a symbol that embraced a history of hatred and genocide.”
Moore Hall residents were given until that Thursday night to remove items from their windows or face possible documentation and go through the conduct process. Moore Hall seems to be the only building enforcing the rule, but it applies to all campus residential buildings.
In a statement to the Niner Times, Tullos said, “We are happy to have students personalize their space and by following appropriate guidelines, residents are able to decorate the walls with flags, posters, artwork, etc. in their bedrooms or shared units.”