This is Perry Deane Young

For some time now, a few radical right wingers in Raleigh have been trying to intimidate and silence UNC Law professor Gene Nichol. A great teacher, Nichol is also a fine writer for the News and Observer. Urging an end to the “unforgivable war on poor people” in our state, he wrote: “It is a rank violation of our history, our ethics, our scripture and our constitution. We are a decent people. We aren’t bullies. And we don’t like those who are.”

This is not the first time right wing radicals have gone after someone at UNC; it is the first time the university has given into them. The radicals come from a long line of bullies, most notably a young Jesse Helms spreading racist fears about Frank Porter Graham in his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1952. In 1963, Jesse and his cohorts went after UNC President Bill Friday because he refused to fire two professors who were actively involved in the civil rights movement. The infamous Speaker Ban was clearly intended as a slap in the face for Friday because he wouldn’t do what a few legislators wanted. The university came very close to losing its accreditation because of the ban on free speech. President Friday and Chancellor William B. Aycock stood up to the bullies in the 1960s. They took an uncompromising stand for free speech and forced the legislature to rescind the Speaker Ban. Although these right wingers talk about freedom, what they really crave is control. Art Pope and Pat McRory are carrying on the darkest tradition of intolerance in our beloved South. Almost overnight, they have turned our once progressive state into George Wallace’s Alabama.

Gene Nichols is carrying on the very best tradition of freedom that has given our university an international reputation for free speech and excellence. He is saying things about racism and poverty nobody else is saying. We are all in his debt. Sadly, the administrators in charge of our university now have given into the hate mongers by insisting that Nichol publish a disclaimer with his articles and notify them in advance. These UNC officials are betraying a great tradition of free speech by knuckling under to a few radicals who want to impose a new speaker ban.