UNC Chancellor issues stronger (but still insufficient) statement on brownshirt violence
Thorp of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sent out this afternoon a second and much stronger statement about the violent protests by “students” last night which ended with the “students” breaking a window and forcing former congressman Tom Tancredo to leave the university classroom where he had been attempting to deliver a talk on immigration.
Before I quote the statement, some explanations are needed. Previously I had wondered whether the wimpy statement by Thorp quoted in this morning’s News & Observer of Raleigh, quoted by me here, in which Thorp talked solely about being “disappointed” and didn’t say anything about punishing the malefactors, was the whole statement. I had looked online and found nothing but what had appeared in the News & Observer. So this afternoon I telephoned the News & Observer, then the Chancellor’s office, and was directed to the UNC News page at which both statements are posted. As it turns out, the pathetically weak statement quoted this morning was the entire statement.
Here it is again:
“We’re very sorry that former Congressman Tancredo wasn’t able to speak. We pride ourselves on being a place where all points of view can be expressed and heard, so I’m disappointed that didn’t happen tonight. I think our Public Safety officers appropriately handled a difficult situation.”
And here is the second statement
, which the Chancellor’s office posted and sent out as an e-mail to the entire university community about three hours ago:
Message from the Chancellor: Free Speech at Carolina
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Campus e-mail sent to all students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, April 15, 2009, by Chancellor Thorp
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.
This is all welcome. But what does an “Honor Court” do? And Thorp says nothing about the possibility of expelling
the malefactors. We know that investigations like these can go on for months and then peter out, with no one brought to account. Isn’t that what happened under the despicable President Bollinger of Columbia after violent “students” stopped an appearance by Jim Gilchrist of the Minutemen at Columbia a couple of years ago?
In any case, even though Thorp’s second statement is still not sufficient, we may fairly assume that he realized that his earlier statement was totally inadequate after he got e-mails like this one from VFR reader Ross W. in North Carolina:
Dear Chancellor Thorp:
As a tax-paying citizen of the state of North Carolina, I am frankly appalled at your response to the violent protest on your campus last night.
Your reaction was, as quoted in the News & Observer: “We pride ourselves on being a place where all points of view can be expressed and heard, so I’m disappointed that didn’t happen tonight. I think our Public Safety officers appropriately handled a difficult situation.”
I’m imagining how you, as President of the US Thorp, would have addressed the nation on September 11th : “We pride ourselves on being a country where our citizens can go about their daily business in physical safety, free of the fear of being mass murdered by foreign fanatics on American soil, so I’m disappointed that didn’t happen this morning. I think our police officers and other first responders appropriately handled a difficult situation.”
I hope this clarifies why your response was inadequate and a disservice to the ideals you claim to support . If you were quoted out of context or there was a significant section left out (particularly about how future violence will be prevented and what measures you will take to punish the perpetrators and guarantee free speech for distinguished guests in the future), I would be glad to hear it.
Ross W. got this reply from the Chancellor’s office, followed by the statement quoted above:
From: Holden Thorp [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 2:51 PM
Subject: Re: Disappointing
Thanks for writing. We’re very sorry about what happened last night.
Chancellor Thorp spoke with Mr. Tancredo this morning and apologized on behalf of the University. I’m pasting below the message he sent to the entire University community today.
Ross W. to LA:
It’s hard to believe that something so short and inadequate constituted his entire statement. I’m glad that he was responsive to the needed criticism and issued something further.
Joseph C. writes:
I am not impressed by Thorp’s second statement. He apologized, he will pursue proceedings, etc. And…
If it happens again, he will apologize, pursue proceedings.
Pontius Pilate was more convincing standing up to the mob.
James N. writes:
Good work on the Thorp matter. I don’t care if he’s sorry and I don’t care what happens to the students.
If Tancredo does not speak at UNC, nothing will have been accomplished.
Tancredo MUST be invited back and he MUST speak. Anything less—statements of regret, letters of reprimand, honor court proceedings, even civil or criminal sanctions—will be unsatisfactory, because the “protester’s” goals will have been accomplished.
Very good point about the need to invite Tancredo back. But I don’t agree that punishing the “protesters” is meaningless.
James N. replies:
I didn’t say punishing the protesters would be meaningless—of course, justice requires their punishment.
But even their just punishment (which will not happen in any event) is insufficient to repair the damage. Punishing them without having Tancredo speak hands them a victory which they should be denied.
Punishing them is not just about abstract justice. Punishing them seriously would prevent others from doing the same thing.
In reply to his e-mail to Chancellor Thorp (posted here), Blake Dunlop was sent Thorp’s second statement, and he replied to Thorp’s secretary:
1. What do Honor Court proceedings amount to? Is permanent expulsion a possible consequence?
2. When will Mr. Tancredo be invited back to give his talk, unmolested?
3. Are you and Mr. Thorp aware that outrageous events like April 14’s at UNC are becoming endemic in the American academy? And that these events are solely the doing of the Left or, as they label themselves, “progressives”? See this link for a potent recent example at the University of Massachusetts involving the shouting down of another conservative speaker within half a minute of his talk’s start, plus a whole lot more.
4. Have you and Mr. Thorp actually watched the eight-minute video of Tuesday’s UNC doings yourself? Here you go.
Laura G. (who lives in N. Carolina) wrote to Chancellor Thorp:
Dear Chancellor Thorp,
I write to express my disgust at the behavior of your student thugs and the violence with which they prevented Representative Tancredo from speaking, prevented the student hosts from providing their chosen speaker with a respectable venue, and prevented would-be attendees (myself included) from hearing this national speaker. The entire scene was disgusting. I note with particular loathing the tone of entitlement with which the thugs assumed the right to attack the meeting.
If you fail to correct the situation completely, UNC will go down as yet another formerly great University that has fallen into the clutches of totalitarian “student activists.” I strongly recommend that you discipline the student leaders and participants, including immediate expulsion, and make the point by reinviting Representative Tancredo and awarding him an honorary degree from UNC. Nothing less will restore the credibility of the university for which you yourself are responsible.
Sincerely awaiting a response from you,
After getting the standard reply and Thorp’s second statement from Tanya Moore, Thorp’s assistant, Laura wrote again:
Dear Ms Moore,
I suppose that you are a spokesperson for Chancellor Thorp. His message to the UNC community is itself limp, sorry, and inadequate. He is “disappointed.” Not outraged, furious, determined to end that behavior, or determined to punish the faculty and student leaders and participants. The use of the phrase, “if investigation determines sufficient evidence,” is strong evidence that the entire outrageous attack will be quietly buried by a gentle academic process, minimized, and then conveniently forgotten. It is a pity, but a far more robust response is needed, and I see no reason to imagine that it will be provided. [Emphasis added.]
Thanks for Laura for catching something I missed: the “If,” in “If that investigation determines sufficient evidence, participating students could face Honor Court proceedings.” The violence occurred. There’s no “if” about that. It’s known who committed the violence. It’s known that a student pushed in and broke the window of the classroom where Tancredo was attempting to speak. It’s almost certainly known who that student is. For Thorp to say, “if there is evidence, there will be an honor court proceeding,” instead of, “The students who commited this outrage on our campus will be punished,” strongly suggests that the worse they will face is a slap on the wrist.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 15, 2009 05:38 PM | Send
By the way, I still don’t understand how it is that students on universities are immune to ordinary criminal law. Why aren’t criminal charges brought against the rioters? When did it happen that universities acquired their own independent police and courts? What is that all about?