UNC-CH Chancellor Freezes Activist Group

Jesse James DeConto, News & Observer (Raleigh), Sept. 19, 2009

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp shut down a campus anti-immigration group Friday after an anonymous flier targeted its faculty adviser, who then joked about his skills with a Colt .45.

Activists put out the flier at UNC-Chapel Hill this week revealing the home address of Youth for Western Civilization faculty adviser Elliot Cramer. Protests at speeches sponsored by the group led to seven arrests and a broken classroom window last spring.

On Thursday night, chapter President Nikhil Patel warned Cramer by e-mail that the flier included his name, photograph, home address and telephone number with the caption, “Why is your professor supporting white supremacy?” It encouraged students, faculty and community members to urge Cramer to withdraw from organization.

“I thought I’d let you know so that you can plan for some sort of protection,” wrote Patel, an Indian-American who denies the group is white-supremacist. “It seems like an indirect threat to your safety.”

“Thanks for your concern,” Cramer replied just after midnight, copying Thorp. “I have a Colt .45, and I know how to use it. I used to be able to hit a quarter at 50 feet seven times out of ten.”

By Friday afternoon, Thorp asked Cramer to step down as the group’s adviser.

“This email is highly inappropriate,” Thorp wrote to Cramer. “It is certainly not consistent with the civil discourse we are trying to promote.”

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Cramer said that the flier didn’t feel like a real threat and that his response to Patel was “off-hand” and “light-hearted.” He complied with Thorp’s request to resign.

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Patel, a senior biology major, thinks Youth for Western Civilization has 30 days to remain active while seeking another adviser, and he thinks the group will find one.

The group and its 10 members “got censored” by the “threatening” flier and Cramer’s “politically incorrect” joke, Patel said. Neither he nor Cramer embrace all of the group’s ideology, he said.

“He is sympathetic to the fact that it should be able to exist and express its own opinions,” Patel said.

Youth for Western Civilization lost its first faculty sponsor in June when physics and astronomy professor Chris Clemens resigned, saying the national organization was too provocative for the local chapter to carry on constructive dialogue with campus leftists.

In April, Students for a Democratic Society and other protesters had shut down a speech by the group’s founder, Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado congressman, calling his group racist and white-supremacist.

This week, Thorp, who apologized to Tancredo personally in April, offered up to $3,000 for the group to invite another speaker to campus. Youth for Western Civilization had been planning to sponsor a speech in October by former conservative commentator Bay Buchanan in a reprise of her appearance in March.

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