Students, You Are In The Real World

North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Carolina Digital Library and Archives

Throughout the 1960’s, hundreds of students and activists organized to oppose House Bill 1395. According to former UNC President William Friday, the 1963 law, which sought to ban communists from speaking on campus, demonstrated a departure from our “basic principles.” However, despite this condemnation, when students organized under the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) sought to challenge the ban in 1966 by inviting two Marxist speakers to campus, their efforts were met with opposition from the administration and calls for disciplinary action from elected officials.

The students did not back down, and on Feb. 8, 1966, Student Government, The Daily Tar Heel, The Campus Y and more than 350 students formed the Committee for Free Inquiry. This along with subsequent student protests and a student-initiated lawsuit ultimately resulted in the Speaker Ban being declared unconstitutional in 1968.

Things that we as students do on this campus matter. As do the things we decide NOT to do.

It’s easy to feel like you’re in a bubble while living at Carolina. We are told that our four years here are meant to prepare us for the “real world.” But what’s not real about Carolina?

We have a nearly $3 billion endowment, of which some unknown quantity is invested in private prisons that abuse our fellow citizens and in fossil fuel companies that abuse our environment

What’s not real about that?

We have an admissions policy which somehow managed to admit 516 African American men into an undergraduate population of over 18,000. That’s 2.8% in a state with the 6th largest African American population in the country.

What’s not real about that?

This sign was created for use at the Women’s March in Washington DC by Carolina student Gentry Fitch

In 2015, three Muslim students were shot and killed for acting too free. And in 2017 President Donald Trump signed an executive order institutionalizing the Islamophobia responsible for their deaths.

What’s not real about that?

The truth is that the folks who spend their time trying to convince us that we are somehow not fully entrenched in the “real world” during our time at Carolina should be met with healthy skepticism. Students can and should seek a positive impact on Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and even our state and country as a whole. The “real world”.

And during a time where the rights of young people, brown people, queer people, disabled people, and all non-male people seem to be explicitly under attack, to do nothing or to wait is to acquiesce.

SDS might have put it best in a statement published in 1966, in which they challenge the students of UNC to “demand the rights and responsibility of democracy, by taking on themselves the burden and the defense of thinking and acting as democrats, not pawns.”

Don’t lose sight of why you were first attracted to Carolina. The stress of finding the right internship, the endless classwork, and the fear of graduating can all cause us to lose perspective of what’s important, what’s real.

When you feel this happening, resist. If we don’t speak up, and we don’t fight for our morals and our values, then who will?

Andrew Brennen is a sophomore at UNC Chapel Hill majoring in political science