UNC at Chapel Hill, Bari Weiss/Frank Bruni event

January 2024
University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill (Public college or university)
Chapel Hill, NC

Identity of Speakers

  • Frank Bruni
    Invited for academic lecture

  • Bari Weiss
    Invited for academic lecture

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    University-sponsored lecture/address/panel
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Not Clear
  • Incident Responses:
    Rally or Protests
  • Incident Status:
    No litigation
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


On January 22, Duke University professor and former New York Times columnist Frank Bruni and Free Press founder Bari Weiss attempted to participate in an event held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of the University’s Program for Public Discourse.

Leading up to the event, the UNC Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter posted on X that “Bari Weiss and her lies are NOT welcome on campus” and advertised a student “walkout.” The SJP claimed that Weiss “frequently reviles intersectionality, solidarity politics, anti-Zionism, pro-Palestinian voices, and any functional critique of Israel.” About 25 minutes into the event, the SJP members stood up and shouted remarks such as “Bari, Bari, you can’t hide; you’re committing genocide” while slowly walking out of the venue. After they had exited, some of the SJP members reportedly stood outside the venue’s doors and continued to heckle the audience. Although the students were eventually removed from the room by campus security, the event was brought to a standstill for several minutes.

Following the disruption, Speech First, a campus free-speech advocacy group, criticized the University for not going far enough in disciplining students who had shouted down the speakers. Speech First argues that merely removing the students from the event was insufficient because the SJP chapter had already planned to walk out after they had disrupted the event. In addition, the SJP members had taken up 45 seats in the venue, preventing students who wanted to listen from having seats.

Speech First argues that “[u]p to this point, UNC has rewarded the SJP chapter by giving them exactly what they wanted — letting them carry out a heckler’s veto by shouting down a speaker, violating UNC policy and state law, and then walking out.” In order to adequately deter future shout-downs,  Speech First called on the University to strip the SJP of their club status.

A University spokesperson responded to Speech First’s criticisms by stating that “The University’s response was consistent with our policies regarding free speech.” And that “[t]he event began with a verbal reminder of our free speech policies and expectations for all attendees. Once the protesters began disrupting the program, they were told to leave and approx. 45 protesters were guided out of the event within a few minutes. The program then continued without further interruption.”