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The Daily Tar Heel

Duke’s situation handled with care

The controversy over the ousting of Duke University’s College Republicans chairman has garnered national attention — sparking discussion on two campuses and a firestorm on Internet comment boards.

The reaction has been all over the map, with all parties involved being condemned at some point — even The Daily Tar Heel.

We have been called insensitive bullies who forced a man “out.” We’ve been accused of bias against Republicans. And people have wondered why we would want to put this situation on the front page.

It’s undeniable that this is an interesting story, if judging only by the sheer number of comments it has provoked.

But why do we feel this is this important to our readers?

For one, the impeachment of Justin Robinette — who claims to have been forced out of the group because he is gay — involves UNC directly.

One of the charges against him is that he did not adequately plan and execute joint events with the UNC College Republicans.

Another wrinkle is that Robinette was recently named co-chairman of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans, alongside a UNC student. UNC College Republicans has also pledged its support for their Duke brethren.

But more than that, the provocative nature of the allegations touches at the heart of issues we discuss at UNC every day.

UNC’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender-Straight Alliance continually keeps civil rights issues in the spotlight, and the University’s LGBTQ Center is one of the nation’s leaders in putting together progressive policies when it comes to gay rights — all while the national debate rages around us.

Because of the sensitive nature of the situation, we kept ethical reporting guidelines firmly in mind as we pursued the story.

We did not set out to air anyone’s private matters. The e-mail detailing Robinette’s allegations about the impeachment was widely circulated and made its way to several members of DTH staff — and it was already being discussed on both sides of Tobacco Road.

We also did not force anyone to talk to us or to tell us confidential information. We contacted Robinette and many members of the College Republicans on both campuses and asked for their comment on the situation. Their words were freely spoken.

Several of our sources requested to meet and speak with a reporter in person, and the requests were granted.

My policy is to never surprise the subjects of our stories with what we print in the next day’s paper. While not everyone we spoke to was thrilled with what we were writing, our reporters came to a reasoned understanding with each source.

We did what we aim to do on any public controversy: report on it fully, fairly and accurately.

No, we didn’t know all the facts when we wrote the story Sunday, and we still don’t. But we felt it important to present what we knew to stimulate as productive a campus discussion as possible. We laid out each argument, but only stated as fact what we could confirm from both sides.

We will continue to find out how the controversy will affect these large and visible student groups on both of our campuses.

And if you think we are falling down on the job, please continue to let us know.

Andrew Dunn is a senior journalism major from Apex. E-mail him at

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