In a recent column (link to, I reported on a growing free speech controversy involving UNC-Wilmington history professor Lisa Pollard and Michael Pomarico, chair of the UNCW College Republicans.
The controversy began when Pomarico wrote a letter to the editor claiming that Pollard had admitted to formerly having friends in terrorist networks during a recent university forum on the war in Iraq. Shortly after the editorial appeared it was yanked by the student newspaper when Pollard threatened to sue the paper, claiming that she had been libeled. Pollard also wrote e-mails to top university administrators accusing Pomarico of lying about her statements in the Iraq forum.
My recent editorial condemned the paper’s decision to pull the editorial and suggested that the paper simply add an editorial response by Pollard to the online edition of the paper after reposting the student’s editorial. I also suggested that the paper allow “any member of the university community to submit letters to the editor, in support of either the student or the professor.”
Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the way things have played out.
Instead, the paper has decided not to put Pomarico’s editorial back on-line. The paper also allowed Dr. Pollard to run a letter to the editor defending herself and restating her position; namely, that Michael Pomarico is a liar. The only other letter to the editor, from another history professor, was also critical of Pomarico’s editorial. In other words, there were two opinions from two professors and none from students in that particular edition of the “student” newspaper.
To make matters worse, the paper published a “clarification” stating that Lisa Pollard claimed that Pomarico’s editorial was false and that the paper had no way of verifying his claims. This was despite the fact that they had no way to verify her claims either. Pollard also issued a statement to a local news station denying that she ever threatened the paper with a lawsuit. However, the following e-mail written by the editor of the student newspaper was sent to a student named Zeb Wright after his editorial was also pulled:
I heard you stopped by today wondering why your letter to the editor was
pulled, which you have the right to know. There was another letter to
the editor, written "against" the panel discussion in which a student
accused a panel member of saying certain things. The panel member said
she did not say such things, and threatened to sue our newspaper for
libel. The student stands by what he wrote, despite her claim.