Ann T. Berry: UNC caves in

April 19, 2014 

Regarding the April 13 news article “ Nichol speaks, just not for UNC”: Thanks for the damning and thorough report on UNC’s cowardly treatment of Gene Nichol. His writings exemplify why academic freedom (we like to think) exists: so truth may be spoken to power. Often power dislikes those truths. This was and will be a fact forever. But it’s deeply depressing that professors’ freedom to speak out, truly or not, should still need defending 50 years after the shameful speaker ban effort to muzzle such speech on UNC campuses.

That today’s attacks come from right-wing kingpin Art Pope’s apostles is no surprise. What’s deplorable is UNC’s lack of spine. Even the law school’s dean, Nichol’s bravest defender, said “there is no present intent” to remove Nichol as head of UNC’s Poverty Center. Under pressure from Pope and Gov. Pat McCrory, the dean warned Nichol that UNC big wheels “must be alert to the prospect of real injury to the university” and only then mentioned the university’s “broad support of free expression by faculty.”

The real injury would be for Chapel Hill leaders to continue caving in to pressure via gimmicks like requiring disclaimers with every Nichol byline. Nichol is a genuine Tar Heel prophet in the tradition of Frank Porter Graham, Bill Friday, John Caldwell, W.W. Finlator and others.

In an Easter week when the command to help the poor still resonates, would that his own country would honor him.

Ann T. Berry


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