Most of my colleagues at UNC-Wilmington understand the First Amendment when they are goring someone’s ox. But when their ox gets gored, they run for the nearest attorney or college administrator. It appears that UNCW history professor Lisa Pollard is now employing this tactic. And things aren’t working out the way she planned.
It all started about two weeks ago when a student came by my office to complain about remarks he claimed Pollard had made during a recent university-sponsored forum on the war in Iraq. During his visit to my office, the student claimed that Pollard publicly admitted to having friends in terrorist networks. Despite the fact that I knew the student well and considered him to be of the highest possible character, I have to admit that I had my doubts about his story.
But those doubts began to recede when I got a visit from another student named Michael Pomarico, chair of the UNCW College Republicans. Michael came by to show me an editorial he had written complaining about Pollard’s behavior during the aforementioned forum. His editorial corroborated the other student’s claim that Pollard had admitted to having friends in terrorist networks.
Last week, the first half of Pomarico’s editorial appeared in the student newspaper, The Seahawk. Later that day, the full version appeared in the online version of the paper. But it was only posted for a few hours. According to the paper, Pollard threatened The Seahawk with a libel lawsuit for publishing Pomarico’s editorial. As a result of Pollard’s threatened litigation, the paper decided to pull the editorial. Shortly thereafter, I contacted the student editor to ask whether her decision was influenced by the university administration. She claimed that she only consulted with a university staff member named Bill Dinome before deciding to pull the editorial. When I called Dinome, he steadfastly and belligerently denied any involvement in the decision. Later, after asking me to get off the phone unless I “had something important to talk about,” Dinome admitted that he really was involved in the decision to pull the editorial.
But the best part is yet to come. Pollard has now consulted a lawyer and is demanding a full apology from the student paper and from Pomarico. She did not follow my suggestion that she simply write to the paper to give her side of the story. Instead, she immediately decided to steer the controversy towards a court of law and away from the court of public opinion. The following excerpts come from an e-mail Pollard sent to the student newspaper, as well as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences: