University Day could not come at a better time. During the past month our school has been highly focused on relief efforts for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Our community has responded in remarkable ways -- a memorial, student-led fund-raisers, vigils, topic-specific lectures, teach-ins and a week dedicated to race relations.
A somber mood underlies all these events -- we remember both the nearly 6,000 victims and the American soldiers preparing for military action. But what also links all these events for us is a renewed sense of our unity.
Today, as we celebrate our 208th University Day, we should recognize that the past month's campus activities have rekindled two UNC traditions -- free thinking and student unity in desperate times. In the words of our alma mater:
Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices
Ringing clear and true
The past month has been inundated with University voices, some garnering national attention. A series of three teach-ins, sponsored by several campus social justice movements, concentrated on nonviolence in the light of the attack on America. A number of conservatives, namely David Horowitz, took the opportunity to call the teach-ins un-American and labeled UNC a liberal campus. How unpatriotic of us to allow open debate and free speech on a college campus when we're only here to pick up a diploma.
Singing Carolina's praises,
Praise and shouting were in evidence elsewhere this week as preacher Tom Short set up his pulpit in the Pit. What began as a moral argument over the right to judge others -- in this case Arabs, Muslims and Afghans -- quickly devolved into an anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-anything-that-isn't-Christian diatribe between many students from diverse backgrounds and a preacher sponsored by Carolina Christian Life.
On Monday, a Muslim student asked what Short's intention was. After a muddled response strewn with biblical innuendo, he replied that he hoped those listening would join in the mission of Jesus Christ. While it is my personal view that Short exploited the deaths of 6,000 -- many of whom have not yet been laid to rest -- to proselytize a distorted version of Christianity, the fact remains that Short had a right to be here.
Hail to the brightest star of all,
Clear its radiance shine.
The brightest aspect of the past month, and the conflicting views that have emerged, is our unity. Students, staff, faculty and town residents came together and illustrated that regardless of individual perspectives, we remain a community.
Carolina, priceless gem,
Receive all praises thine.
Our community is enhanced by the tradition of free speech at UNC that began with the Di and Phi societies in the 1795. In 1966, that tradition was challenged by the General Assembly's Speaker Ban Law -- and anti-war activist Frank Wilkonson was not allowed to talk on UNC's campus. Instead, Wilkonson stood on the sidewalk of Franklin Street and delivered his message to more than 1,000 students on the campus side of a low stone wall.
No matter what praises or criticisms we receive in the media, UNC has a rich history that we honor today. The past few weeks have exemplified our unity, our strength and our commitment to free thought and academic exploration.
Happy 208th University Day! Now all of us together:
I'm a Tar Heel born, I'm a Tar Heel bred, and when I die, I'll be a Tar Heel dead.
Rah! Rah! Carolina-lina! Rachel Hockfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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