Thought Gestapo in Action at Rollins College

Faculty members bully and slander a student for expressing her thoughts on illegal immigration.

Jamie Pizzi, a freshman at Rollins College in Florida, penned an op-ed for the college’s student newspaper The Sandspur on March 17 in which she discussed aspects of the continuing national debate over illegal immigration. She focused on the issue of “anchor babies” – children born to illegal immigrants residing in the United States and who are, under the 14th Amendment, automatically granted full citizenship. Like many Americans, Ms. Pizzi believes that children born to people who entered the nation illegally and/or who continue to live here illegally should not be granted the same rights and privileges that legal immigrants obtain only after negotiating a mountain of paperwork and waiting for a very long time.

Some members of the academic establishment at Rollins College were outraged that Ms. Pizzi would dare harbor such “extreme” views, much less commit them to writing. Worse, in the opinion of the intelligentsia, was the fact that The Sandpiper actually published such “inflammatory” opinions. For example, Rollins faculty member Kathryn Norsworthy sent mass e-mails around the school denouncing Pizzi’s piece. A comment that Norsworthy posted at The Sandspur’s website is typical of the academic community’s hysterical reaction:

“This kind of media contributes to a climate of hate and intolerance in our community and is potentially traumatizing to our friends, colleagues, and students who are immigrants, their families and friends, and to those of us who are allies and/or members of other marginalized groups. Finally, I cannot imagine what people outside of Rollins will conclude about our college community and climate when they read this kind of thing in our college newspaper. I am extremely embarrassed to know that this is being put forward as part of the public face of Rollins and, sadly, regardless of how many letters we write, we can’t take back the fact that this has already gone to print and been disseminated widely inside and outside our campus.”

Faculty members Denise Cummings, Ted Gournelos and Lisa Tillmann put their signatures to an open letter that was sent around campus, in which the trio compared Pizzi’s viewpoint to Nazi propaganda. They went on to explain why certain opinions should have no place at Rollins College:

“This is not an issue of free speech. No one is arguing that the only legitimate view is one in favor of birthright citizenship. Informed, reasonable people disagree on a host of issues. The issue here is one of responsible communication, journalistic integrity, and the Rollins mission of global citizenship and responsible leadership. If the Sandspur puts texts like this op-ed and illustration into public discourse–without even a contrary view or comment–you have to take responsibility for harm that comes to everyone impacted. Members of our department and several others have worked with undocumented young people and farm workers in Apopka. It pains us deeply to consider their having to confront a depiction of themselves as an alien, a bug; and we shudder to consider how this rhetoric feeds already existing stereotypes and prejudices that precede hate-based violence.”

Steve Doocy brought such intimidation to light on Fox & Friends last week. When the incident then garnered national attention, George Soros’ spin-machine went into action. The billionaire’s media watch-dog organizations ignored any part of the story that involved attempts to stifle the free expression of ideas on campus. Instead, they attempted to demonize a college freshman for having an opinion that they don’t agree with.

College Media Matters gave prominent play to Pizzi critics who accused her of being a Nazi, supporting genocide and promoting an atmosphere of hate and intolerance. Media Matters Simon Maloy went after the freshman as well, in a personal attack that was questionable even by MMFA standards. Maloy declared: “I’m not here to bash on (sic) a college op-ed…” and then proceeded to do just that, although practically nothing of his criticism had anything to with what Pizzi actually wrote. Maloy slammed Pizzi for “her poorly articulated nativism,” declared that the anchor babies are a myth and dismissed the very idea that liberal academia might attempt to stifle opinions it doesn’t like instead of fairly debating the issues of the day.

How well or how poorly a college freshman manages to express her ideas is hardly relevant and such gratuitous insults shouldn’t play any part in civilized discourse, but Maloy – like so many on the left – finds it difficult to disguise his contempt for anyone who disagrees with him. It’s clear to any dispassionate reader what Ms. Pizzi was trying to say: some immigrants enter this nation illegally, while others follow the tedious requirements of the law before entering the nation. Is it fair to treat children born in America to both groups the same way? Ms. Pizzi, and millions of other Americans, would say it’s not, and saying that does not make any of them racist, supporters of genocide, hateful or intolerant.

Edward Leffler, a student at Rollins College who serves as Sandspur Section Editor: Opinions, Vice President of the Jewish Student Union, and Student Government Association Parliamentarian, is pressing the college to create a “Student Bill of Rights” in order to protect “…academic integrity, justice, and equality” at Rollins College. Like many Rollins students, Leffler has been appalled at the way members of the faculty and media have attacked Pizzi because she expressed a particular opinion.

The Sandspur is not a left leaning or right-leaning publication at all,” Leffler said in an interview with FPM. “We try to cover both sides of any issue. Our editors always review submissions for anything that is profane or could incite a riot at Rollins. But, we also train our writers to make the first paragraph of an article a grabber.”

Pizzi dutifully opened her op-ed with a lead paragraph intended to grab the reader’s attention: “How would you feel if a stranger broke into your home, began to eat your food, wear your clothes and watch your television? I am assuming you would not be the slightest bit welcoming to this intruder. Your home and all its contents were purchased with the finances you strenuously worked to obtain.”

Many of her critics on the left interpreted Pizzi’s lead ultra-literally, and declared that the imagery employed was dangerous and disturbing. Leffler reports that the Rollins student body doesn’t appear to share that and other opinions held by some of their left-wing instructors.

“A large majority of the campus is disgusted with the way that some of the faculty has reacted,” Leffler said. “Even left-leaning students agree that method of communication faculty members used hardly was appropriate.

Leffler added that the President of Rollins College, Lewis Duncan has responded to the controversy with a hands-off attitude, but the Dean of Faculty, Debra K. Wellman, expressed her severe discontent with the way some of her colleagues have behaved. Many of the students hope that the college will ultimately hold faculty members accountable for their behavior.

“The majority of the student body believe that if this were a student, they would get a punishment or worse,” Leffler said. “Student at Rollins College believe this situation deserves a strong reaction.”

For now, Leffler and other concerned students are focusing on developing an Academic Bill of Rights, and plan to meet with the President and the Dean of Faculty to discuss the issue this week. They hope to come up with something that we’ll be acceptable to students and faculty members of all political persuasions, so that ugly responses to free expressions of opinion do not occur again at Rollins College.