Posted on May 4, 2009

Protester’s Grant on the Line

Jesse James DeConto, News & Observer (Raleigh), May 3, 2009

Student activist Haley Koch will meet with the head of the Morehead-Cain Foundation Monday to discuss the fate of her prestigious scholarship.

Neither Koch nor Morehead-Cain director Chuck Lovelace would say whether Koch has been temporarily denied access to some of her funding, but Lucy Hanes Chatham, chairwoman of the Morehead-Cain Board of Trustees, said that’s likely.

“That’s nothing more than standard procedure when one of our scholars has been arrested,” Chatham said.

Koch was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct April 23, nine days after she and another young woman disrupted an event sponsored by the student group Youth for Western Civilization. They held up a 12-foot banner that read “No Dialogue with Hate” and forced YWC president Riley Matheson, a fellow senior, to move forward into the aisles to address the audience. YWC opposes “radical multiculturalism,” affirmative action and mass immigration.

Charges and hate mail

“The defendant held up a banner and refused to put it down, chanted and sang loudly whereby she did not allow the scheduled lecturer to speak at a school-group-sponsored event,” reads Koch’s arrest warrant.

The event ended when a protester broke a window and Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado congressman, fled the building. Among hundreds who protested, dozens who pushed their way into a Bingham Hall corridor, several who shouted at the YWC speakers and four who held up banners in front of them, Koch was the only person charged with a crime.


Koch said she’s received hate mail, but, so far, the criminal charge and the jeopardy of her scholarship are the only concrete repercussions of her activism. She declined to comment in detail on either one.

Funded by a private foundation, Morehead-Cain is the most competitive scholarship in the UNC system. It pays for full four-year tuition, fees, housing, meals, books, supplies and travel. It also covers four summer-enrichment programs starting before freshman year. For an out-of-state student such as Koch, the scholarship is worth about $140,000. John Motley Morehead III established the foundation in 1945 and started the scholarship program in 1951. In 2007, Gordon Cain donated $100 million to expand the program.

Exceptional background

Koch is a product of Sidwell Friends, the Quaker school attended by President Barack Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia and former presidential daughter Chelsea Clinton. Koch, of Cabin John, Md., was among 43 freshmen who received the Morehead scholarship in 2005.

Her parents are Susan and Christopher Koch, Emmy and Peabody award-winning filmmakers. Four of their relatives were killed on American Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. A year later, Susan Koch produced an ABC/Nightline special on how families were honoring those who died in the terror attacks.

On the day of her arrest, Haley Koch received the 2009 Undergraduate Excellence Award from the APPLES Service-Learning program for her work organizing United with the Northside Community Now. UNC-NOW works to preserve the identity of the historically black neighborhood north of downtown Chapel Hill. The group also received the 2009 Engaged Scholarship Award from the Carolina Center for Public Service for their work collecting oral histories from the neighborhood.

Most recently, UNC-NOW has made demands on the developers of Greenbridge, a 10-story, eco-designed condo complex under construction at the edge of the neighborhood, saying they should work with the town to provide more benefits such as affordable housing, jobs, training and tax relief to long-time residents.


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