North Carolina’s Pope Center for Higher Education Policy is reporting that a visit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by former congressman Tom Tancredo went off without incident late last month. Why is this noteworthy, you ask? Because the last time Tancredo visited UNC, his speech was disrupted and he was forced to leave his speaking venue because of violent protests (pepper spray was used to disperse the unruly protestors). In a blog entry about the incident last year, FIRE praised UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp for refusing to back down to those who would shout down and drive out speakers with whom they disagree:
In a campus-wide e-mail following the violence prompted by Tancredo’s speech, Thorp announced that he had apologized to Tancredo for the disruption, asked campus police to pursue criminal charges against disruptive protestors if warranted, and stated, "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." Thorp continued in this vein after the attempt to disrupt [illegal immigration opponent Virgil] Goode’s speech, saying, "I regret that six protesters had to be arrested, but they gave us no choice … They ignored our warnings, and their disruptive behavior was completely at odds with what we expect here at Carolina."
This year, Tancredo’s speech was once again protested, but this time, peacefully. As the Pope Center reports:
Tancredo remained at the podium to deliver his speech, entitled "Is Western Civilization Worth Saving?" and it was the protestors who left the lecture hall—voluntarily and in orderly fashion, to boot. Approximately ten minutes into Tancredo’s speech, the protestors chanted in unison shouted "No human is illegal," and slightly more 100 audience members walked out in a show of contempt for Tancredo (and his well-known stance against illegal immigration).
It seems that UNC students have indeed learned a lesson about the difference between protesting views with which you disagree versus attempting to silence your opponents altogether. Kudos to UNC for its handling of the discourse surrounding this controversial issue.