Thursday, April 16, 2009

More on the TANCREDO incident....

This story updates the situation.

Here is a further e-mail that I have sent to the UNC Chancellor, along with a longer version of his statement in response to the incident:

"Dear Chancellor,

I wrote to you last evening after reading what your news office sent me as your statement following this incident. What you have included here appears to be a longer version.

While I find it somewhat better than the initial statement, I find several elements missing.

One, is a clear restatement of position - not the position of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but the position of our cherished system of freedom of expression embodied in the First Amendment and interpreted by so many courts since then - that each of us has the right to speak as we choose and that no voice should be suppressed because it is out of a multitude of such voices that the truth and good judgment emerge. It is too bad that there is a need to restate this idea to a university community, but that clearly appears necessary and nothing is to be lost by doing so. You should do so very clearly and quickly.

Second, I take it from coverage that I saw this evening on MSNBC that included Mr. TANCREDO, that UNC teaching staff may have participated in the effort to suppress Mr. TANCREDO's speech. I find this quite concerning, if true, and I believe that these people - if proven to be the case - along with students should be subject to the severest disciplinary action. If any laws were violated, of course, criminal prosecutions should be undertaken by state or federal authorities, as appropriate, but that is not your decision to make.

Third, as Chris MATTHEWS noted in that MSNBC segment that included apparent video from the TANCREDO event, it is seemingly evident that those involved have not received an education that I would have expected all to have had before entering UNC in any capacity. With that education clearly needed, I hope you will institute a requirement that every UNC student and all teaching staff enroll in either a course on our system of freedom of expression or attend an intensive multi-day program focused on the same subject. I'd be happy to volunteer to help organize and lead such a program as you will see from my earlier note that I have the real world experience that may be uniquely suited to meeting this need. I'll not burden this e-mail with a bio, but if you want one, I'll be happy to send it along. That's not the point; the point is that you need to announce a proactive plan to insure that students and teachers - all of them - know and understand the importance of seeking all points of view and insuring that all can be, and are, heard.

As it stands, you lead a university with a huge black eye. An approach as I have outlined it will mean not only that the eye heals more quickly, but that it's both a better eye and far less likely to suffer a shiner in the future.



-----Original Message-----
From: FYI Carolina Online []
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2009 5:56 PM
To: Carolina Alumni and Friends
Subject: Message from the Chancellor: Free Speech at Carolina

Dear Carolina alumni and friends,

Many of you have heard or read about a protest on campus Monday night, and I'm writing to share with you the message I sent yesterday to our campus community. I think you will find that the message speaks for itself. But if you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.


Holden Thorp, Chancellor


Message from the Chancellor: Free Speech at Carolina (April 15, 2009)

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

I want to express how disappointed I am in what happened last night when former Congressman Tom Tancredo wasn't able to speak when a protest got out of hand, and our Department of Public Safety had to take action. Congressman Tancredo felt threatened and left without making his remarks.

Mr. Tancredo was scheduled to speak about immigration. We expect protests about controversial subjects at Carolina. That's part of our culture. But we also pride ourselves on being a place where all points of view can be expressed and heard. There's a way to protest that respects free speech and allows people with opposing views to be heard. Here that's often meant that groups protesting a speaker have displayed signs or banners, silently expressing their opinions while the speaker had his or her say. That didn't happen last night.

On behalf of our University community, I called Mr. Tancredo today to apologize for how he was treated. In addition, our Department of Public Safety is investigating this incident. They will pursue criminal charges if any are warranted. Our Division of Student Affairs is also investigating student involvement in the protest. If that investigation determines sufficient evidence, participating students could face Honor Court proceedings.

Carolina's tradition of free speech is a fundamental part of what has made this place special for more than 200 years. Let's recommit ourselves to that ideal.


Holden Thorp"

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