The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday March 24th

Closing the book

The University can put the situation involving Elyse Crystall behind it now that the federal government has deemed its actions responsible.

The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education officially ended Wednesday the investigation of an incident that caused many members of the University community to speak out and to question the learning environment on campus.

The investigation was warranted, but OCR was right to point out UNC officials' show of responsibility in their reaction to the actions of English lecturer Elyse Crystall.

The office reported that UNC responded properly to the controversy surrounding Crystall and the e-mail she sent to her class regarding a student's disparaging remarks about homosexuality.

The report helps to absolve the University of charges of systematic bias in the classroom, and it effectively rebuffs claims that administrators responded insufficiently to the attack.

Federal officials correctly found evidence of intentional discrimination and harassment in Crystall's actions. At the same time, they appropriately did not call for the University to take further action to uphold constitutional protections.

The University's response in this case was swift and thorough.

Administrators required that an observer from the Department of English sit in on Crystall's class until the semester had been completed and later gave OCR access to the class' Blackboard Web site, which was password-protected and featured a discussion board for students.

The debate and discussions that were spurred by the scenario sparked questions related to academic freedom at the University.

And the student in question had the right to speak his mind. Stifling an opinion presented in a classroom setting is unacceptable at this University and at any other, for that matter.

There's little dispute that Crystall's approach to the situation was inappropriate, but it wasn't representative of UNC as an institution.

It's good to see that OCR has closed the case. The University finally can move on.

Academic freedom should work both ways. Students and educators alike should have the ability to diffuse knowledge - and UNC has lived up to this ideal.

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