Mary Katharine Ham

Want to know how fast a modern American university can go from championing open debate to squelching it?

     Just ask Jillian Bandes. The University of North Carolina junior wrote a column supporting racial profiling for her campus paper, the Daily Tar Heel. That was Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, she was fired. Just like that-- from First Amendment to fireable offense in slightly more than 24 hours. How did it happen?

     The paper’s opinion editor Chris Coletta wrote a column for the Daily Tar Heel Thursday, which included the reasoning for Bandes’ firing:

Some of you called it [the column] racist. Some of you called Bandes’ words a fundamental breach of integrity and journalistic standards. Some of you called for my head, not to mention hers.

But that’s not why Bandes got fired. It happened because she lied to her sources and readers.

Unlike two DTH alumni who resigned from The Reidsville Review this summer, Bandes didn’t inaccurately quote anyone. (I have her notes as proof.)    

     Coletta has notes that prove Bandes quoted her sources accurately, so where’s the lying to sources and readers?

Bandes told the three people quoted in her column — students Sherief Khaki and Muhammad Salameh, as well as professor Nasser Isleem — that she was writing an article about Arab-American relations in a post-9/11 world. …

Racial profiling was, in fact, part of their conversation. But it wasn’t their entire conversation. At no point did Khaki, Salameh or Nasser ever think the only quotes Bandes would use would be their comments on the subject.

     Forgive me if I don’t think this passes the smell test. Bandes was fired just one day after her column ran. She was a one-year veteran of the paper’s staff and former member of the editorial board, but was given no chance to defend herself or apologize before her dismissal. And all this despite the fact that there is proof that she didn’t actually misquote anyone.

     Coletta initially declined to comment for this column, but in a phone interview Thursday night, he said he understands that some conservatives think this was a case of a liberal editor bending to pressure on a liberal campus, but defended his decision to fire Bandes.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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