02/24/04 — Bigotry: Professor tarnishes image of UNC-CH

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Bigotry: Professor tarnishes image of UNC-CH

Over the years, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — to its credit — has been second to none in championing freedom of thought and expression.

In that noble role, the state’s flagship university not infrequently has found itself assailed by the slings and arrows of conservative critics.

Recently the spotlight of public attention focused on a Chapel Hill professor who went counter to the basic principle of the freedoms for which the university has fought since its founding.

Professor Elyse Crystall teaches a course listed as “Literature and Cultural Diversity.”

During a recent class session, a student commented that he was opposed to homosexuality. Ms. Crystall subsequently sent an e-mail to all in her class, chastising the student for his comment.

“What we heard constitutes hate speech and is completely unacceptable. It has created a hostile environment,” she wrote.

In a crass display of blatant bigotry, she referred to the student, by name, as “a white, heterosexual, Christian male who can feel entitled to make violent, heterosexual comments and not feel marked or threatened or vulnerable.”

This from one entrusted with teaching “cultural diversity”!

The professor since then has offered a bit of an apology — but apparently under pressure and after having been called upon by her department head “on several occasions” regarding the matter.

Congressman Walter Jones Jr. expressed his displeasure over the incident and has asked if the professor might have violated state or federal laws by encroaching on the student’s freedom of speech.

The congressman made an observation that suggests the need for some sober self-appraisal on the part of the university’s leaders:

“Had Ms. Crystall substituted ‘black’ for white, ‘homosexual’ for heterosexual, or ‘Muslim’ for Christian, she would have been suspended or fired immediately.”

Perhaps Professor Crystall is benefiting from some “political correctness” concerns unknown to the public at this writing. News stories have made no mention of her sexual orientation, her race or her religious preference, if any. And properly so.

But her hostile intolerance to the freedom of a student to honestly express views that differ from her own certainly raises questions about the suitability of her presence on the faculty of this great university.

A pressured and half-hearted apology doesn’t erase the embarrassment she has caused the good name of the institution.

Published in Editorials on February 24, 2004 11:18 AM