The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday October 23rd

Some UNC professors aren't afraid to get political

<p>Dr. Ariana Vigil</p>
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Dr. Ariana Vigil

Women and Gender Studies professor Ariana Vigil wrote a letter to Chancellor Carol Folt that said UNC should not release private student information, like immigration status, to authorities. The letter was signed by dozens of professors.

“I consider myself part of this University community and for me that brings with it a responsibility to speak up when vulnerable members of our community are targeted,” she said. “Moreover, the proposed legislation clearly hinders the ability of students and others to complete their studies so this is an issue that impacts academics and that we have a stake in.”

She said she speaks out about politics frequently.

“If I can offer historical and political context and a nuanced perspective, based on my areas of expertise, I think that is part of me fulfilling my job as a scholar and teacher,” she said. “Moreover, I personally have an ethical and political commitment to the issues I study and to social justice and combating discrimination.”

UNC English professor Jennifer Ho expressed her beliefs on President Trump’s Immigration Ban in an opinion editorial in the News and Observer. She compared the ban to previous exclusionary and xenophobic legislation that had been passed by the federal government, saying that as a child of immigrants, she was tired of seeing the same mistakes being made.

“I don’t believe that the decisions that Trump has made or the declarations he has made since taking office are in the spirit of what the United States is supposed to be about,” Ho said. “It may be commensurate with the kinds of systemic inequality that has underpinned US legislation from the time of its founding to our current moment, but it certainly does not represent the best of what the US could be and should be.”

Ho has also been vocal about HB 2 within her department. She said it is an exclusionary bill that was meant to vilify and oppress certain groups of people.

“The bathroom portion of it created a false narrative of bathroom predators and used a rationale and language of protecting women and children that was used to promote segregated spaces/bathrooms during the civil rights era,” she said. “This is legislation meant to oppress and marginalize transgender people and the other portions of HB2 were meant to control local municipalities — to prevent them from increasing the minimum wage for employees. So it was punitive based on gender/sexuality/class.”

Professors aren’t the only ones to speak out. UNC-system President Margaret Spellings criticized Trump’s immigration policy, saying that undocumented students should be given a chance at the American dream too.

Junior economics major Waseem Khan said that professors should be entitled to share their political opinions, even if they are biased.

“I think professors should be able to talk about their political affiliations and any biases that they have,” he said. “But they shouldn’t try to be advocates or try to influence their students’ political ideas.”

Law professor Maxine Eichner said that she is selective in choosing which political opinions to share publicly.

“I certainly have opinions, generally about politics, but the only opinions I discuss publicly are those that relate to my professional expertise, including in family law and on LGBTQ issues,” Eichner said. “My view is that part of the job of professors at public universities is to use their expertise to benefit the public.”

Junior business major Hamza Baloch said that professors have the potential to influence their student’s political outlook, but should refrain from doing so.

“UNC is a pretty liberal school, but it doesn’t bother me because I am a liberal,” Baloch said. “However, it is important for professors to not be biased because it is critical that students make their own decisions regarding politics without being influenced by a biased source.”

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