Free Speech at Carolina
Campus e-mail sent to all students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, April 15, 2009, by Chancellor Thorp
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.