Last Tuesday Leftist protesters at UNC – Chapel Hill disrupted former Congressman Tom Tancredo’s talk, forcing its cancellation and his departure from campus under police escort. The protesters also threatened (“we know where you sleep”) the students who invited Tancredo to UNC.
Today, The Chronicle editorial board gave the Duke community its thinking about those events in an editorial titled: “Protest within rights but off-base.”
As the title suggests, TC’s editorial is a muddle.
Here’s part of it:
… By chanting, shouting, waving signs, breaking a window and obscuring the podium with a huge banner, the protesters prevented Tancredo from airing his views. This activity should be admonished.The entire editorial’s here.
It is not to say, however, that the protesters did not in general have the right to act as they did. It is crucial to note that they have the freedom of expression and, except for breaking a window, were engaging in the American tradition of free speech through protest.
In the wake of the incident, to deny or to forget that the protesters had this right would be to water down one of the rights that make this country and its academic institutions great. …
On the editorial’s comment thread a commenter ID’ing as Duke Alum (second comment) cuts through TC’s muddle. (excerpt):
I think that we need to understand that 'protesting' does not constitute interrupting, disrupting, shutting down. This is an abomination of the act of protest in a civilized forum.Many reading the editorial will be wondering what they teach these days in Duke’s History and Political Science Departments.
Hopefully, UNC will deal with this inappropriate behavior within its honors code with significant consequences so that future 'protests' will take the form that does not intimidate, does not put others at risk and does not shut down speech. They have a chance to show meaningful leadership. …
I’d take that further and ask: what were they teaching in the editorial board members’ middle and high schools?