Universities should protect all ideas


Kenneth Pancake

On Jan. 30, President of the University of Nebraska Hank Bounds sent an email to all students in Nebraska’s only public university system. Part of that email read: “Our pledge to you is that the University of Nebraska will keep working every day to be the kind of place where all feel welcome, valued and safe… That’s what our university stands for.”

What he forgot to say was that this pledge didn’t apply if you were a / Conservative.

Kaitlyn Mullen was only the spark. Most students know of her harassment at the hands of UNL professors and staff two months ago, but it didn’t stop there. The graduate teaching assistant was reassigned away from lecture work, but as a safety measure, not a disciplinary measure. Posters and flyers protesting the proposed wall along the southern border, denouncing capitalism and insulting the president of the U.S. all hung in prominent windows and doorways of Andrews Hall, reported on Oct. 24. This prompted three state senators to release a letter on Oct. 30, denouncing the lack of action.

Outside of Nebraska, students are arrested for simply handing out copies of the Constitution; face unconstitutional attempts to lock out Conservative speakers; and are constantly abused, stalked and shut down (see CampusReform. org). Universities have even been caught encouraging students to stab “Trump-kins” on Halloween to get the stress out of their systems!

Surely, a university president would sympathize with the concerns of not only Katie Mullen, but Conservatives across the entire country. Instead, Bounds came out swinging saying things like, “We keep on getting sidetracked by this,” and “…this whole argument is embedded in bad politics,” as heard in a KLIN 1400 AM interview from Oct. 31.

Does this response resemble anything that Bounds championed in his grand email to students? He doesn’t seem to understand the severity of the situation he faces, and the implications it has toward Conservatives across his four campuses. Officials clearly observed a Conservative being treated unfairly in August and in a demeaning manner. Mullen was called a “Neo-Fascist,” a “Nazi,” and a “Becky,” a derogatory term used to describe a loose white woman. Yet no significant action has been taken.

In the KLIN interview, the administration mentioned the reassignment of Courtney Lawton; however, this was not for disciplinary reasons. Last week, she was listed as teaching courses again next semester, albeit her name was removed later. Chancellor Ronnie Green mentioned the effort to talk to both Mullen and Lawton; however, these talks have not led to significant action. Finally, Bounds mentions his ‘task force’ to review the “policies and procedures” of the university regarding free speech. It has been close to three months, and this ‘task force’ has yet to do a ‘task.’

If this were an announcement of a new executive policy with which they disagreed, university officials would have sent out a system-wide email, reaffirming their opposition to the proposition – like they did in January of this year against the president’s immigration policy. If it was an example of racism against an African-American, the chancellor would have sent a message to the students immediately, much like here at UNO last December, and rightly so. However, if it would have been an attack against a Conservative? Crickets.

No email has been sent. No one has been fired or even suspended without pay or even suspended with pay. Instead, Conservatives face university doors that make them feel unwelcome, deal with the false representation of a university president who takes policy stances on behalf of the entire system, hear their concerns described as “bad politics” and wonder if their administration will actually “work every day” when Conservatives are threatened, like they promised. Next spring, Conservatives will have to hope they don’t end up in Lawton’s class.

Here in Omaha, it’s not as bad. The communications team has worked with me personally to protect my own Conservative organization’s rights, and I appreciate that. But at best, the reaction from our system’s leadership has been lackluster, and at worst, it sends a clear message that while Conservatives’ money is welcome at the University of Nebraska, their ideas are not.