Inside Higher Ed is reporting today that, unlike most public universities, East Carolina University is “taking a different approach” to the still-brewing controversy over marching band members’ national anthem protest at a football game last weekend.
It’s been widely reported that 19 ECU band members kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the country, prompting a wave of criticism and one radio station’s decision to drop its upcoming coverage of a Pirates game.
Now, leaders at the university are speaking out against the protest as well.
From Inside Higher Ed:
Since athletes and others have been taking a knee during the national anthem, the leaders of public colleges and universities have offered a variety of views on whether the protests are wise. Even so, they have defended the protests as a form of speech protected by the First Amendment and traditions of free expression in higher education.
But East Carolina University is taking a different approach. In the wake of a controversy over a move by some band members to take a knee while playing the national anthem at a football game, the university has said that such demonstrations will no longer be tolerated.
“College is about learning, and it is our expectation that the members of the Marching Pirates will learn from this experience and fulfill their responsibilities. While we affirm the right of all our students to express their opinions, protests of this nature by the Marching Pirates will not be tolerated moving forward,” said a letter released by the university. It was signed by William Staub, director of athletic bands; Christopher Ulffers, director of the School of Music; and Christopher Buddo, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication.
The letter also said that the officials “regret” the actions of the band members, which they said “felt hurtful to many in our Pirate family and disrespectful to our country.”
As the report points out, East Carolina’s response breaks with other public universities in the country who have expressed support for students’ right to protest.
It would also seem to clash with the earlier comments of ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton, who said in a statement that he “respects the rights of our students, staff and faculty to express their personal views.”
It’s not the first controversy at East Carolina this year. Policy Watch reported in May on Staton’s appointment to the school’s top post, despite criticism that the conservative former Georgia state senator brings a political background to an academic position. Staton was tapped for the job by UNC System President Margaret Spellings.
In response to the school’s stance on the protests, some are already criticizing the university.