Of Dissent and Support

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”

— Abraham Lincoln

It is hard for me to believe that some 20 years have passed since the controversial Speaker Ban Law rocked not only our University but also our state and those devoted to Chapel Hill who reside beyond our borders. I was attending Fayetteville Senior High School at the time and can recall a lively American history class discussion on “The Constitution — A Guarantee of Freedom of Speech?” stimulated by the N.C. General Assembly’s Speaker Ban.

Author Bob Joyce in his well-researched and thought-provoking article “Reds on Campus: The Speaker Ban Controversy,” found on page 4, summarizes (perhaps for the first time anywhere) the complete history of the action and the emotions that moved our campus and became a topic of conversation and of deep concern to many for years thereafter.

The concerns expressed on all sides of the issues that triggered the Speaker Ban Law are consistent with what one would hope to find in an academic environment with such a long history and tradition as ours. The search for the truth that must go on daily knows no bounds. It is especially gratifying to recall how UNC students expressed themselves. They demonstrated through their actions a fierce commitment to the basic principles of academic freedom and of the Bill of Rights.

By the time I entered Carolina in the fall of 1966 the Speaker Ban Law controversy had died down. There was, instead, mounting concern and later protest over the United States’ involvement in Vietnam and its later incursion into Cambodia. There were also localized protests concerning the food workers’ strike here at the University.

Although those protests of the ’60s and ’70s are behind us we must continue to examine and to comment on action by the state, or even the University, that may threaten our continued preeminence as an academic institution devoted to teaching, research and public service.

A University like ours does not grow rich in tradition and prosper without a continuing flow of loving criticism. If our excellence is to be sustained, alumni must continue to serve as a conscience for the University, providing much needed support. We must volunteer our ideas and time. And we must be willing to speak out — not for the sake of hearing the sound of our own voices, but to assure that we continue to be faithful to the spirit of this special University.

Your Alumni Association serves as a means for you to share your thoughts and concerns. Our 152 ,000 alumni will not always be in agreement. That is as it should be. Carolina’s faculty, for nearly 200 years, above all else has taught students to think — and, to think independently.

A University as large and complex as our own moves simultaneously in many directions, some of which may be confusing or disturbing to our alumni and friends. We encourage and invite you to express yourself on matters of University policy that concern you and to share your views with us through our ” letters” column.

As noted alumnus, former GAA president, and long-time Wall Street Journal editor Vermont Royster ’35 commented with reference to the Speaker Ban Law controversy:

“I couldn’t help but notice that those who argued for the Speaker Ban Law were themselves expressing a love for this University. ” — Vermont Royster, 1978

Yours at Carolina,

Doug signature




Douglas S. Dibbert ’70

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