Malice in Wonderland

Posted: Nov 24, 2003 12:00 AM
My recent article concerning the revocation of the College Republicans' (CRs) status as an official student group at UNC-Wonderland has yielded hundreds of e-mail responses. Most readers immediately understood the absurdity (and unconstitutionality) of the university's attempt to "celebrate diversity" by banning groups from campus for refusing to relinquish control of their organizations to university administrators.

In this case, the CRs fought the university's campaign of "intolerance towards intolerance" by asserting that their First Amendment freedom of association trumped a set of university policies that the administration tried to force them to adopt. Specifically, they objected to a requirement that they abide by all university policies, because these policies ban discrimination on the basis of factors such as "political affiliation." In other words, the CRs actually wanted to limit membership to Republicans.

Almost all of my readers understood that the university went too far in its efforts to control the student organization. There was, however, considerable disagreement over the cause of the university's unreasonable demands. While some saw it as predicated upon ignorance of the constitution, others saw it as a function of sheer malice. Since I wrote the article, I have encountered evidence to support both views.

Regarding the former view, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) just released a summary of the results of two surveys conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis (CSRA). The data demonstrates that most college administrators are profoundly ignorant of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Of the 306 administrators from public and private colleges and universities across the nation, only 21% named "freedom of religion" when asked to name any First Amendment right. Only 6% knew that freedom of religion was the first right enumerated in the First Amendment. And, sadly, 11% could not name a single right guaranteed by the First Amendment.

New information also surfaced this week to support the assertion that malice accounts for the decision to ban the CRs from UNC-Wonderland. In fact, on the very day my article appeared, a student visited me, who is on the Student Organization Committee (SOC), the body that de-recognized the CRs.

The student who visited my office is one of five students on the SOC. There are also seven professors on the committee, which is chaired by an administrator named Faydra Stratton. While in my office, the student explained that he is the only Republican presently serving on the committee. After that revelation, I asked whether he voted for or against the decision to de-recognize the CRs. He informed me that he could not cast a vote either way because he was not informed of the meeting that was convened to revoke the CRs status.

A quick examination of the voter registration records indicates that the decision to de-recognize the CRs was, in fact, done without the input of a single Republican. In other words, the SOC excluded Republicans from a vote to force the Republicans to include the Democrats under the threat of excluding the Republicans from campus if they don't. Is everyone following the logic of our leading educators?

But I'm afraid it gets even stranger than that. The aforementioned student member of SOC has also disputed Faydra Stratton's assertion that all student groups were subjected to the same review as the CRs. In other words, both the CRs and one member of the SOC are now beginning to say that the CRs were discriminated against when they were singled out to sign a clause designed to end discrimination. Are you still following me?

And we still aren't finished. In my last article, I explained that another conservative group (Students for a Stronger UNCW, or SSUNCW) was denied recognition on the same day the SOC de-recognized the CRs. Two reasons were given for this denial. The first was their refusal to sign the controversial non-discrimination clause. The second was that the group's purpose was "unclear."

As I stated in my previous article, such a view is highly implausible when one examines the following portions of their proposed constitution: "(SSUNCW is) steadfastly committed to defending causes of academic and intellectual honesty, patriotism of country, free speech for all students, fair and balanced classrooms and forums, and the ideals that we deem attributable to a fair and properly functioning campus community."

Since the rejection of that group, I have obtained copies of notes written by members of the SOC, used in the decision to reject the proposed conservative student organization. Among the comments are the following: "What's this? Is it a witch-hunt against 'non-patriotism' (e.g., speaking out against the government?)" and "I wonder about an agenda that proves to be divisive" and "this isn't for a student organization to determine. This should be omitted. Academic freedom is already guaranteed."

That's right, folks. The committee has determined that the group does not have the academic freedom to fight for academic freedom because they already have academic freedom. I promise, I'm not making this up.

In light of these new developments, the CRs should demand that the university reinstate their group immediately. And, of course, SSUNCW should demand a second review of their student group application. These demands should be issued to the Dean of Students, the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, and the Chancellor of the University.

If they are denied, the taxpayers may have to foot the bill for an expensive and embarrassing lawsuit. All because of a few people hell-bent on forcing "tolerance" and "inclusion" and unwilling to carve out common sense exceptions.

All because they just don't feel like it.

Mike S. Adams is an associate professor at UNC-Wonderland. He can be reached at ( ) when he is not on the queens croquet-ground or seeking advice from a caterpillar.