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UNC-W chancellor issues statement following dispute between professor and a Muslim, LGBTQ student

In his September column, UNC-W criminology professor Mike Adams criticized Nada Merghani for her actions surrounding President-elect Donald Trump’s August campaign visit to their campus.

The column discussed comments Merghani made before Trump’s visit that appeared to be a threat and said that she was questioned by Secret Service officers, before criticizing Merghani as a social justice warrior.

Merghani said she was initially shocked by Adams’ column and scared for her safety because the piece mentioned her sexuality.

“To use an LGBT person’s name and talk about their sexuality without giving them the opportunity to say, ‘Oh, maybe I don’t want the information disclosed because I might not be outed this, you know, at this particular level,’” she said. “Or I don’t want this information to be public.”

Adams did not respond to emails requesting comment.

UNC-W Chancellor Jose Sartarelli released a statement Wednesday regarding the campus climate, though he did not directly respond to Adams or Merghani.

Sartarelli said he and others are working to revise the Seahawk Respect Compact, which is a commitment to a respectful and safe campus environment.

He said students and faculty can share their opinions both on- and off-campus and speech that may upset some people does not equate to threatening speech.

“We as an institution do not, and should not, regulate or respond to those opinions,” Sartarelli said.

UNC-W’s Office of University Relations said in an email that Adams has not improperly released private or confidential information about Merghani, nor did he violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

The department said Adams’ conduct and written material do not contain a threat toward Merghani or other students.

Merghani’s Tumblr post has received over 17,000 notes. She said her sense of fear and powerlessness is what prompted her to write the post.

“I don’t think anyone ever expects something as large as this to blow up,” she said.

UNC-W’s Office of University Relations said they have reviewed the situation and although Adams’ column and social media presence do not represent UNC-W, they are protected by the First Amendment.

They also said they have worked with Merghani to address her concerns.

Adams sued the university in 2007 after his request for promotion to full professorship was denied despite several professional accomplishments.

Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Adams, said he was denied the promotion because of his conservative political views, and a federal jury ruled in Adams’ favor in 2014.

Merghani said she plans to transfer from UNC-W because she thinks it is an unsafe environment for her.

“Ultimately, my moving forward and the best thing to do for myself would just be to leave the institution that has called me ISIS for the last three years and that has mocked my religion and sexuality for the last three years,” she said.

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