The State of Free Speech: A Conversation with Haley Koch, Nikhil Patel and Hugh Stevens

The State of Free Speech: A Conversation with Haley Koch, Nikhil Patel and Hugh Stevens

Oct. 1, 2009: This panel discussion between Haley Koch, Nikhil Patel and Hugh Stevens covered the First Amendment issues raised by the protest against former Congressman Tom Tancredo’s speech last spring on campus.

Haley Koch, a UNC senior and activist, was arrested for her role in the protest that prevented Tancredo from speaking in Bingham Hall. The case against Koch was thrown out by a judge on Sept. 14, but as a result of the publicity generated by the charges, Koch has repeatedly been threatened and harassed.

Nikhil Patel is a UNC senior and the president of Youth for Western Civilization, the conservative student group responsible for organizing the Tancredo speech. YWC has struggled to remain a viable campus group since being stigmatized as a white supremacist group by more liberal students; the organization recently lost its faculty adviser for the second time since the Tancredo speech.

Hugh Stevens is a nationally known First Amendment and media lawyer who served as general counsel for the North Carolina Press Association for 20 years and continues to serve as counsel to the North Carolina Press Foundation, the North Carolina Open Government Coalition and several North Carolina newspapers, including The News & Observer. Steven’s interest in the First Amendment began as a student at UNC-CH in the 1960s.

During the discussion each panelist shared his or her perspectives of the Tancredo incident and the First Amendment implications of the protest; the state of free speech on the UNC campus more generally was also discussed during this dialogue. Panelists then participated in a question-and answer-session with members of the audience. The event was organized and moderated by senior journalism and mass communication major Sam Wardle.

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