Editorial: Not a proud UNC moment
The week after their men’s basketball team demonstrated championship athletic skill, students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed their propensity this week for something else ó intolerance.
The prompt this time came from the UNC chapter of Youth for Western Civilization, a conservative group that brought in former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado as a speaker. Tancredo, who mounted a brief run for the presidency in 2007, is known for his hard-line stance on immigration.
Students holding the opposing view would be expected to protest a speaker like Tancredo, but there’s a difference between protesting and obstructing. First, campus security had to remove two women who stood in the speaker’s way with a 12-foot banner saying “No dialogue with hate.” While police used pepper spray to disperse the protesters trying to get into the overcrowded classroom, other students inside screamed curses at Tancredo. Eventually, police escorted him from the room.
According to its Web site, Youth for Western Civilization focuses on the support of Western culture and “opposition to radical multiculturalism, political correctness, racial preferences, mass immigration, and socialism.” The protesters played right into the organization’s hands, doing their radical best to intimidate Tancredo and disrupt a legitimate campus event.
Instead of listening to other viewpoints and entering into debate, as some in the audience wanted, the UNC protesters silenced Tancredo like a bunch of bullies. For that, Chancellor Holden Thorp has apologized to Tancredo. “We expect protests about controversial subjects at Carolina. That’s part of our culture,” Thorp said in a memo the next day to students, faculty and staff. “But we also pride ourselves on being a place where all points of view can be expressed and heard. … That did not happen last night.”
The protesters need a refresher course in freedom of speech, which is summed up in this quote attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” There are words for preventing others from voicing opposing views, words like “fascism” and “dictatorship.” They should have no place on a university campus.
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