The Bullies at The Panther Should Calm Down

From the Editors

After a long search, Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden announced on August 11 that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was chosen to be his running mate. The day after Biden’s announcement, a tenured professor and former dean of Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, Dr. John Eastman, wrote an article questioning Sen. Harris’ eligibility for the vice presidency. The fact that Senator Harris was born to a foreign national mother and father (Indian and Jamaican respectively) prompted Dr. Eastman to question whether Harris is a “natural born citizen” of the United States, as defined under the Twelfth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Panther, Chapman’s school-funded paper that traffics in the politics of personal destruction, was quick to label Dr. Eastman’s citing of constitutional theory as “hate speech.” Based on this classification – in addition to their insinuations of racism – they called for immediate action to be taken by Chapman’s president, Daniele Struppa. 

In The Panther’s August 16 editorial, they questioned, in regard to Dr. Eastman’s article, “Where is the line between free speech and hate speech?” And, in The Panther’s August 24 editorial, they again described Dr. Eastman’s article as racism hiding behind the front of free speech. This is not the first time The Panther has lashed out at Eastman. In November of 2018, they published an article on Dr. Eastman, where they quoted a Chapman English professor labeling Eastman as “xenophobic.” 

Of course, Dr. Eastman’s argument was not rooted in racism whatsoever, rather in constitutionality and national security. Dr. Eastman explains that under a different (and arguably more accurate) interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Sen. Harris would not have been considered a U.S. citizen because her parents were not U.S. citizens at the time, thus disqualifying her from holding office as either vice president or president, according to the Twelfth Amendment.

On August 17, President Struppa, in response to demands for censorship and condemnation of Eastman’s article, sent a mass email titled Chapman’s Commitment to Diversity. “The strength of a university comes in its commitment to free speech and to academic freedom. We cannot simply pick and choose when to support free speech, despite the personal views of the president, provost, dean or any university administrator. Indeed, if anyone in a position of authority were to publicly criticize faculty work, it would create a dangerous chilling effect on the culture of academic freedom that defines a university.” It is admirable that Struppa acknowledged that the purpose of a university is to foster an atmosphere of open expression and intellectual inquiry, and not the place where a vocal minority should be able to publicly shame and intimidate dissenters into silence.

In response to Struppa’s statement, The Panther’s Editorial Board wrote, “At this point, we as students are drifting further away from having any sort of interest in associating with Chapman. We’re ashamed and embarrassed. We’ve resigned to our broken undergraduate memories. We’ll just roll over, keep our heads down and go through the motions to finish off our degrees. And once we enter the workforce, we’ll try to prove we’re more than the institution we graduated from.” If the members of The Panther are so ashamed of the administration’s conduct, why do they continue to operate with the funding of the very same administration? Wouldn’t the logical conclusion be to move towards operating independently from the administration and distance themselves as much as possible?

Political discourse should be free from all ad hominem attacks, and that includes name-calling. Labeling someone “racist” or “xenophobic” is not a thesis. It is a personal attack and a convenient way to sidestep an argument. Unfortunately, shaming, rather than substantive arguments, has always and will always be the main strategy of the progressives at The Panther.

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