“The speaker tonight was able to express his views and have a give-and-take with his audience.” That was Holden Thorp’s assessment of former Virginia Congressman, Vigil Goode’s talk last night at the UNC Student Union. Youth for Western Civilization, a UNC campus group, invited Goode to speak one week after demonstrators had forced cancellation of a similar talk on illegal immigration by Tom Tancredo.
I attended last night’s talk and I’d call the chancellor’s remarks a little on the rosy side. The UNC release that quotes Thorpe implies Goode was heckled and jeered only in the beginning of his talk. That’s incorrect. Despite a clear warning by UNC officials that further disruptions would result in removal, heckling marred the entire evening.
In addition to six protestors facing charges of disorderly conduct, protesters set off body alarms, unfurled profane banners and insulted Goode throughout the evening. If UNC had decided to back up their own warning, three times the number of arrests would easily have been made. It also would have allowed those who came to hear Mr. Goode the opportunity to hear him talk and not be assaulted by the endless taunts of young people who appear to be as angry as they are ignorant.
Sadly, it seems an event that records no vandalism and violence equates with success in the minds of UNC administrators. If so, I’d say the bar has been set too low. If protesters continue to do all they can to disrupt a presenter’s remarks it’s hard to use give-and-take as a way to describe the evening. Let’s remember UNC officials have the authority and the responsibility to create an environment that fosters debate and discussion. If the administration is hesitant to use all the tools it possesses to create a climate conducive discussion, is it at all surprising why some question UNC’s commitment to free speech?