Wednesday, April 15, 2009

UNC Students Silence Opposition

Supporters of liberty are accustomed to having their freedoms abridged by professors and administrators, whether it be in the form of biased course offerings and curricula, speech codes, or a variety of other, more subtly suppressive measures. But when it's students who seek to impose ideological homogeneity, the affront cuts that much deeper.

Students at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill did just that when Tom Tancredo, a former Congressman who ran for president on an anti-immigration platform, was invited to speak at the university on the issue of the eligibility of illegal immigrants for in-state tuition benefits. As the local news outlet reports:
Protesters interrupted his speech, stretching out a banner in front of him that read, "No one is illegal." Tancredo grabbed the banner and confronted one of the people holding it.

Then there was the sound of glass shattering. A window was broken by more opponents outside. As the situation escalated, Tancredo left.

While there is certainly much to find distasteful about Mr. Tancredo's views, it provides no justification for hindering his freedom to express them. Indeed, this story illuminates the importance of libertarian and conservative students engaged in campus activism being civil and respectful in debate, and engaging opposition on an intellectual, rather than an emotional, plane. As Voltaire so eloquently put it, "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

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