Mike Adams controversy puts UNCW in national news

Casey McAnarney, Editor in Chief

The controversy surrounding the actions of UNC Wilmington criminology professor Dr. Mike Adams have made national headlines and continues debate over free speech and hate speech on campus.

Dr. Adams’ position as a columnist on conservative website Townhall and writing about student Nada Merghani has continued to stir controversy and create media coverage. The difference now is that national publications are commenting on his actions.

This goes along with the campus wide debate over whether or not his article entitled “A ‘Queer Muslim’ Jihad?” was hate speech that targeted and incited online threats against Merghani or speech is protected by the first amendment. This debate has created two separate petitions, one aimed at UNC President Margaret Spellings with the intention to get Adams fired and the other in support of his first amendment right to free speech.

Petitions are not the only things to come out of this debate; departments on campus have even come out in opposition to Adams’ actions.

The Faculty Senate sent out a statement condemning Adams’ treatment of a student, saying “public remarks by professors about a student’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, age, disability, political affiliation, or sexual orientation are inconsistent with our values.”

Adams responded to this statement in a post to Townhall called “My Faculty Values and Your White Privilege.” In this response, Adams counters a lot of what the faculty senate said in their brief statement and show what he believes to be hypocrisy in their statement.

Two other departments- the Creative Writing Department and Adams’ own Criminology Department- also condemned his actions in statements to news publications.

Some of the publications that have now commented on Adams include:  NBC, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue and Buzzfeed.

In the NBC report entitled “Free Speech or Harassment? Controversial Professor Tests the Limits,” Mary Emily O’Hara discussed testimony from UNCW alumni who claimed to be or knew individuals who said they were harassed by Adams.

The report also interviewed Merghani about the situation and her recent acceptance to transfer to UNC Charlotte in the spring.

“I’ve accepted what happened to me, but if I have to see this happening to someone else,” said Merghani in the NBC report about why she is speaking out, “I won’t be able to live with that.”

With all of these major media outlets publishing stories on this matter, the university still stands by its original statement to not pursue any punishments or reprimands for Adams due to his right to free speech.

Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli said in an email to the entire campus Nov. 16 “speech we do not agree with, or which may upset us, does not equate with speech that is threatening.”

“…our commitment to freedom of expression does not supersede our commitment to student and employee safety,” said the chancellor. “When a concern is raised and there is evidence of a true threat to the safety of a student or a faculty or staff member, I can assure you that we take the matter very seriously and investigate accordingly.”

The chancellor also urged anyone that feels as though they have been discriminated against to call the campus police at 962-2222 because, “We can’t address these incidents without awareness of them.”

However, some view this as not enough. In an email to The Seahawk and to Chancellor Sartarelli, an anonymous individual claimed that “the university administration’s anemic response last week is not only disappointing and shameful, it is bad for UNCW.  Like Adams’ public attacks, it undermines the credibility and functioning of the university.”

This individual also said that they have been watching Adams for sometime now in the news and was not surprised by this incident since he has a penchant for controversy and “hate-filled attacks.”

This community member in their email also cited other incidents in which they viewed Adams rhetoric as hateful. For instance, they commented on the time Adams referred to the scent of “swarthy young Muslims” in a July 2008 article on Townhall.

There email was signed, “A concerned UNCW community member.”

Concern is exactly the sentiment being felt as students and faculty on both sides over this debate on free speech continue a dialogue on what should be done in this situation.

The individual who emailed The Seahawk, Chancellor Sartarelli and a handful of other UNCW administrators was not granted anonymity. They did not include their name on the email and created a fake Gmail account in order to send this email. To see what the anonymous email said, click here.