But I’m afraid the story only gets worse.
After UNCG lawyers said that they would re-evaluate the “speech zone” policy, the university decided to go ahead with the trials of Jaynes and Sinnott. These two students who were charged with “violation of respect” - for refusing to follow the administration’s order to move to a free speech zone - were never actually impolite or disrespectful. They were just standing in the wrong place when they expressed their love of free speech. They were standing in the middle of an American college campus.
But it gets even worse than that.
The UNCG student attorney general told Sinnott and Jaynes that neither could take any notes out of the hearing with them or even talk about the hearing with anyone else after the fact-basically imposing a complete “gag order.” In other words, they were asked to destroy any evidence of whatever constitutes – or does not constitute - “due process” at UNCG.
And, in case you have forgotten, this demand to never, ever, ever say anything about what UNCG was doing to them resulted from the students’ proclamation that “UNCG Hates Free Speech.” But we aren’t to the worst part of the story yet.
UNCG dropped the “speech zone” charges against the two students the week before the trials and, instead, substituted a new charge. The new charge was for violating a direct order by not turning over the contact information of every single person at the protest. UNCG borrowed this trick from the State of Alabama, which perfected the procedure in the 1950s. Back then, the NAACP was harassed by white racists who demanded to know the identity of all persons involved in another form of “petition(ing) the government for a redress of grievances.”
Of course, the grievance back then was racial segregation. After a fifty year struggle for civil rights, the difference between racial segregationists and college administrators is barely discernable.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court intervened in 1956 to put an end to such totalitarian methods. In so doing, they gave new strength to the First Amendment and formal recognition to the concept of “freedom of association.” But half a century later the meaning of this seminal case is still lost upon Counselor Capone and the administration of UNCG. This is the state of North Carolina where college administrators are untouchables and federal law is optional.
But, fortunately, all of this mess happened at a singularly inopportune time for the UNCG administration. The joint report by the FIRE and the Pope Center has been picked up by media outlets across the state. And, thanks to these two fine organizations, the UNCG administration has now caved in and dropped all charges against Allison Jaynes and Robert Sinnott.
The UNCG administration did not capitulate because of a love of free speech. These cowards capitulated because they hate public humiliation more than they hate the First Amendment. And that is why I would never, under any circumstances, send my child to UNCG.