‘I think hate speech has no place on our campus’

Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, is one of two panelists scheduled to appear at a Nov. 19 forum sponsored by Flipside Productions, an enterprise of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno.

The other panelist is Miguel Acosta, a member of an immigrant rights organization in New Mexico.

Nicolas Blevins, a 20-year-old political science major and contemporary issues chairman for ASUN Flipside Productions, said the forum is “purely educational” and intended to start a dialogue.

Predictably enough, in an era when the open discussions protected by the First Amendment are held in wide disrespect even by those who should defend free speech most highly — our college professors — there are those who intend not merely to ask some pointed questions of Mr. Gilchrist after his speech, but to block his appearance, preventing students at a publicly funded university from hearing the viewpoint of one who believes the nation’s current immigration laws should be enforced.

“We’re hoping there is a way we can prevent his visit to our community,” Daniel Perez, an assistant professor in languages and literatures, was bold enough to tell the Reno Gazette-Journal Wednesday. “Gilchrist is part of a vigilante group and of an organization that clearly uses hate speech, and that clearly translates into hate crimes.”

Emma Sepulveda, director of the Latino Research Center at UNR, said she was “completely surprised and shocked” that Blevins would invite Gilchrist to the campus without seeking the advance permission of her Latino center or any other Hispanic group.

“There are many other organizations around the country that are anti-immigration that are peaceful and could provide an intelligent debate,” she said. “But Jim Gilchrist has been connected with criminal activity and paramilitary groups that advocate violence and contribute to hate speech that has led to the deaths of immigrants around the country.”

In the first place, while Mr. Gilchrist opposes illegal immigration, there’s no evidence he opposes “immigration,” as Ms. Sepulveda clearly means to imply — a common word trick of those who wish to distract us from discussing the rampant scorn for and violation of our immigraiion laws, and the apparent impotence of Washington when it comes to to simply rounding up the easy-to-find masses of illegals and shipping them home.

Nor do any major profiles of the man, printed in respectable publications, reveal what “criminal activity” Mr. Gilchrist has been “connected with,” nor the names of any immigrants for whose deaths he has been responsible.

A decorated Marine veteran (purple heart) who volunteered to fight in Vietnam when he was 18, Jim Gilchrist “expresses strong and seemingly sincere support for multiculturalism, noting that one of his stepdaughters is married to a Mexican-American man and two of his grandchildren are half-Mexican,” according to Steven Thomas’ 2008 profile in Orange Coast magazine. (www.minutemanproject.com/immigration-topics/Reconsidered.asp)

“He points out that the Minuteman Project itself is a multiracial and multiethnic group with African-Americans and Hispanics in positions of leadership,” Mr. Thomas reports.

“We have individuals who have immigrated here legally from countries like Cuba, Mexico, and Peru who help Jim,” says Robin Hvidston, a college-educated mother and housewife who is Gilchrist’s national rally organizer. “It is not a matter of race. It is a matter of upholding laws.”

One has to wonder where Ms. Sepulveda has been doing her “research” — and whether her character assassination is underwritten by Nevada’s taxpayers. (Or is this merely a tactic to silence the opposition, by assuring any who oppose her that they’ll stand accused of murder?)

Mr. Gilchrist holds a B.A. in newspaper journalism from the University of Rhode Island, a B.S. in business administration from California State Polytechnic University, and an MBA in taxation from Golden Gate University. He is a former newspaper reporter and a retired California Certified Public Accountant.

On April 1, 2005, Mr. Gilchrist came to public attention when he and his followers set up camp in the desert south of Tombstone, Ariz., to draw attention to the problem of uncontrolled illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States. “I knew if I could create the largest gathering of Minutemen since the Revolutionary War that it would have an impact on the issue,” he says.

During the next 35 days, more than 1,000 people from around the country participated in the controversial event, fanning out along a 24-mile stretch of the international border to look for and report undocumented immigrants slipping into the country.

The Minutemen neither shot anyone nor carried out any “citizens arrests.” But the gathering sparked a media frenzy, drew a charge of vigilantism from President Bush, and probably did more than any other single event to push immigration reform to the center of the American political stage, Mr. Thomas of Orange Coast magazine reports.

To counter Mr. Gilchrist’s scheduled UNR appearance, Ms. Sepulveda, her “Latino Research Center,” and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada will sponsor their own immigration discussion and “cultural celebration” from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 19 at the William J. Raggio Building.

They don’t specify which culture they’ll be celebrating. Why do I think it won’t be the mainstream American culture into which most immigrants used to wish to assimilate?

“I don’t want to silence somebody just because they have an opposite view,” Ms. Sepulveda told the Gazette-Journal. “I support free speech, but …”

(You knew there’d be a “but,” right?)

“… but I think hate speech has no place on our campus or any other campus,” Ms. Sepulveda concluded.

In fact, it would be hard to conceive of anything more pernicious and disingenuous than pretending to defend the right to “fee speech,” when it turns out what you really mean is “but students shouldn’t be allowed to hear any speech that I consider ‘hateful.’”

If college is good for anything, it should be a place where students are exposed to points of view which they may previously have considered to be strange, alien, unfamiliar, or wrong.

Harvard University retracted its invitation last month for Mr. Gilchrist to be on a panel discussion on immigration after some students whined that they didn’t wish to be exposed to his views.

In bold contrast, UNR President Milton Glick said last week he might not like what Gilchrist has to say, but “a university should be a place for the open exchange of ideas and a bastion of free speech. … Our goal isn’t to make ideas safe for students but to make students safe for ideas.”

Finally — an academic voice that Nevadans can be proud of.

3 Comments to “‘I think hate speech has no place on our campus’”

  1. Dee @Good Morning America Says:

    I just blogged about a similar subject. Freedom of speech is vitally important to me.

    I go by the rule: “If you aren’t going to like the answer then don’t ask the question”.

    Same goes, if you’re not going to like what’s going to be said then don’t attend the rally or conference or what ever. But, don’t handcuff the speaker’s right to say or write what they believe.

    Freedom of speech in America is in mortal danger.

  2. Jerry A. Pipes Says:

    I don’t share your views on immigration, Vin, but I agree that this is ridiculous.

  3. Publius1960 Says:

    Maybe you will when you are unemployed and an illegal has your job.