I just sent this e-mail to the UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor:
We have not met.
My wife and I have called Chapel Hill home for 10 years.
We have no connection to UNC.
I have spent my continuing career covering more than 35 years defending and advocating freedom of expression here and abroad. Over a nearly 20 year period, I served as general counsel to all of the major newspaper publisher trade associations in the US, Europe and globally.
When I graduated from Brown in 1969, we chose to express our opposition to the Vietnam War when Henry KISSINGER received an honorary degree. Not a sound was heard, but we made our point. A large percentage of my classmates and I simply rose from our seats and silently turned our backs. Nothing was interrupted and we made the point that we chose to make at the time.
From what I have read of what transpired at UNC last night when Mr. TANCREDO was to speak, I find appalling the decision of some number of students to oppose speech with which they disagree by attempting to silence it – and apparently succeeding. In our system of freedom of expression, there is no place for that, least of all on a university campus like UNC.
Bad speech, if one thinks it so, is best answered by good speech. It sounds to me that Mr. TANCREDO was prepared to hear other points of view, but never got a chance.
Instead, he got very bad manners.
I write this to you because I asked your news office to give me a copy of your statement and they have now sent me Roger PERRY’s as well. I find his far better than yours. You fail to embrace the core issue of freedom of expression and it is clear to me that those who have taught the offending students either at UNC or earlier in their young lives, failed to explain this to them. Surely, no one worthy of a UNC education could be expected to choose otherwise.
Let me reiterate…. I fully support the expression of all points of view, and have spent decades defending some of the most unsavory ideas and people imaginable, all with the firm belief that better ideas will win out over them. I probably agree with many of the views likely to be expressed by the students whose actions ended TANCREDO’s speech.
But I cannot tolerate as an NC resident, and I do not believe that you should tolerate as UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor, this kind of conduct. Instead, the offending students should be subject to public rebuke, and disciplinary action. Let them speak out in opposition to that if they choose, but appropriate punishment is merited, it should come from you, it should be meaningful, and it should be public.
Thanks for considering my views,