On Tuesday, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Student Congress upheld the Finance Committee’s decision to decrease the College Republican’s budget over 75% from the previous year; during the meeting, some of the representatives went on record accusing two conservative, female leaders as being “non-intellectual” and having “no value.”
Last week, Townhallreported that the UNC Student Finance Committee gutted the College Republicans’ proposed budget –reducing their request from $8,180 to $3,090—while still providing full funding for feminist and liberal, anarchist groups. The College Republicans, who have a strong history of hosting organized, well-attended events, requested the money to host journalists Ann McElhinny and Katie Pavlich on campus, in an effort to expose students to alternative political viewpoints.
Ann McElhinny is an investigative, environmental reporter and the co-producer of the documentary FrackNation. Katie Pavlich is a New York Times best-selling author, Fox News contributor and News Editor of Townhall.com.
The College Republicans appealed the decision to the UNC Student Congress, who voted 21 – 1 in favor of allocating the group only $3,090 worth of funds, ruining the group’s ability to host the two journalists. Some representatives argued their decision was not based on financial merit, but rather the ‘value’ of the two speakers.
According to The College Fix:
The amount of their speaking fees and the validity of their biographies became the recurring theme during the contentious meeting, with phrases such as “non-intellectual,” “no value,” and “costs too much” often tossed around.
“My concern why I supported removing this is that the educational value – her work has been called … ‘unreliable as a Wikipedia page,’” vice-chairman of the student congress finance committee Austin Root said regarding McElhinney, citing a two-paragraph review of ”FrackNation” in the New York Daily News.
Another member of the finance committee, student Rep. Harrison Touby, took a shot at the women by saying “we’re talking about $5,000 for a lady who made a movie, and $3,000 for a contributor to Fox News. That is a lot of money for two non-academic speakers to come to an academic university to speak.”
Chair of the UNC College Republicans, Peter McClelland, told Townhall that he was disappointed, but not surprised, by Congress’ decision:
“I was surprised by the lop-sidedness of the vote, not the vote itself.”
McClelland is also a member of the UNC Student Congress but abstained from the vote for ethical reasons.
Townhall reached out to several UNC Student Congress members to ask them to clarify how they were defining the term “intellectual” when referring to the two women; while some chose not to comment, Rep. Harrison Touby responded to Townhall’s request, offering a different analysis of the comments he made during the Committee’s discussion:
“As a Republican, I've actually become quite offended by some comments made by other conservative websites about me and what I had said.
I'm not sure where these "non-intellectual" or "non-academic" comments have come from either as both of these…proposed speakers literally write, give speeches, and create journalistic pieces based upon intellectual discussions of current issues. Comments were made, however, that [suggested] world renowned and highly awarded professors, politicians, or other academics could be brought to the university for a much cheaper price than what was requested for these two events.
Essentially, I voted to maintain the budget appropriation as passed because UNC, as a public university funded by the tax payers of North Carolina, simply does not have the money to appropriate almost $10,000 for one group to invite two speakers to campus like [it] may have had in previous years.”
The UNC Student Congress has a history of funding the Young Democrats society to host non-academic speakers on campus, including liberal musician and Obama-supporter James Taylor. But more importantly, UNC has a history linked to the protection of the first amendment, dating back to the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960’s. Just over 50 years ago, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a Speaker Ban law because North Carolina public universities were hosting controversial speakers who advocated extreme liberalism.
“Challenged by the university and proponents of free speech, the law remained on the books for over four years. A three-judge federal district court in Greensboro ruled February 19, 1968, that it was unconstitutional and violated First Amendment protections of free speech on. Though essentially unenforceable, it was not until May 1995 that the law was officially repealed.”
It’s a shame the UNC Student Congress chose not to take a more active role in helping the College Republicans get McElhinny and Pavlich to campus; doing so would have been in line with their university’s tradition of celebrating free speech, even when it may be deemed controversial. Instead, they effectively prevented conservative voices from speaking out on campus, and have made their university's history look like it only protects liberalism.