The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday September 29th

Letter: Rationing freedom at UNC


I am surprised by your editorial Was No One Else Free? on Nov. 10. 

You seem to distinguish among speakers on the basis of their associations and “expertise.” 

You conclude, with baffling circularity, that campus speakers should be held “to the same standard as our university.”

What is that recommended standard if, as you seem to imply, it may be rationed according to a capricious measure of worthiness? 

Your masthead boasts “125 years of editorial freedom,” but you hint at a standard that narrows freedom if and when we dislike or deplore its origins and content. 

The current editors of the DTH are too young to recall the long, dreary battle of the 1960s against a restrictive law banning “known communists” from the UNC campus. 

It was almost certainly conceived by the late Jesse Helms to punish student and faculty civil rights demonstrators. 

The nominal protection of students from communism was a mere smokescreen and the law was correctly identified as a gross abridgment of academic freedom. 

It was strenuously opposed by the president and chancellor, tested in an embarrassing physical exclusion of one or two prominent communists from the campus, and ultimately overturned on First Amendment grounds by a Fourth Circuit judicial panel.

It happens that October 2017 marks the centennial of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, which under Lenin and Stalin dwarfed other ideologies, save Adolf Hitler’s, in oppression and murder. 

Do you mean to imply that UNC should have submitted tamely 50-odd years ago to a law that banned the “known” advocates of communism, nominally associated as they were with a bloodthirsty tyranny? 

Freedom of speech in any setting is a seamless entity — open, as one jurist memorably said, even to “freedom for the thought we hate.” 

The doctrines and associations of Donald Trump’s sometime henchman Mr. Gorka, are indeed distasteful, but irrelevant. 

I wish you had said so clearly. 

Edwin Yoder, Jr.

Former DTH Editor


Chapel Hill

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