A conservative student publication at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill was targeted by vandals and hackers recently — the latest example of the campus attacks on conservative political speech. Criminals defaced the publication’s new distribution boxes on campus and hacked into its website, erasing more than a decade’s worth of stories.
The vandalism was discovered April 28, the word “racist” scrawled across the distribution boxes. The boxes had just been installed four days before.
Soon after, the Carolina Review website was found to have been largely deleted, with a message describing its student editor as “Nazi scum,” along with an expletive.
University police are investigating the incident, but so far there have been no leads.
“We’re still completely in the dark,” said Bryson Piscitelli, a sophomore and editor-in-chief of Carolina Review.
What’s more clear is the vandals’ rationale for attacking the publication.
Campuses across America have hurtled leftward, student bodies becoming more radicalized and faculty more politicized. Conservative students have been assaulted at University of California-Berkeley and sent death threats at Syracuse University, while conservative speakers protested and shouted down at the University of Connecticut and numerous others around the country.
While North Carolina schools have not had as many high-profile incidents, the tone on campus is similar.
“It really is as bad as you think, if not worse … The culture on campus is poisoned,” Piscitelli said. “The real problem that we’ve seen is the student body is petrified by a culture of left-wing cultural norms to the point where people are quite understandably afraid to ever voice intellectual disagreement.”
Jenna Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, described the vandalism as “the equivalent of book-burning” by a small but vocal segment of university students who support blocking any speech that runs counter to their own opinions.
“The hacker doesn’t want to engage in discussion or honest dialogue. He wants to shut down opinions with which he disagrees. This is a deeply illiberal attitude,” Robinson told Carolina Journal. “Such attitudes are detrimental to the public discourse and student learning and engagement.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the campus community has not rallied to Carolina Review’s defense.
When the university administration sent a tweet condemning the attack, the UNC student body vice president criticized it for the message of tepid support.
“Prioritizing taking a public stance to support institutions or groups that stand to further systems of violence and oppression against marginalized students while actively not supporting marginalized students??? Go UNC give us nothing,” Collyn Smith wrote.
Piscitelli called for legislative leaders and other elected officials to do more to help conservative students on North Carolina’s college campuses. This could include policies that require intellectual diversity among faculty, or a more explicit affirmation of free speech rights.
He said this has only grown more important as political disagreements have shifted from fiscal policy debates to cultural differences.
“We’re debating whether this society is fundamentally good or evil,” he said.
Andrew Dunn is a freelance writer for Carolina Journal.