A new student group at UNC-Chapel Hill that decries "radical multiculturalism" and "mass immigration"—and whose faculty sponsor, ironically, is married to a Hispanic woman—will host former U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo to speak Tuesday night about illegal immigration.
The event is hosted by the UNC chapter of Youth for Western Civilization, a self-styled "right-wing youth movement" founded in 2008 to "create a subculture that will promote the survival of Western Civilization and pride in Western heritage" on college campuses.
Riley Matheson, a senior, told the Indy that he started the UNC chapter in February to counter the campus' celebration of diversity, as well as the university's "deep mistrust and hatred of Western heritage."
"If we look at most college campuses, UNC especially, diversity is celebrated," he said. "You're told from the second you get here for orientation that diversity is a strength. And we believe that that makes absolutely no sense."
The Leadership Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based conservative training organization, is funding the event, according to Matheson.
Chris Clemens, a UNC professor of physics and astronomy, is YWC's faculty sponsor, though he admits to not having read the group's national charter. He told the Indy he "hesitated at first," due to Matheson's focus on immigration, before sponsoring the group to foster a "diversity of opinion."
"I don't agree with everything in their charter," he said. "My wife is Hispanic, and my child goes to bilingual school."
Tancredo, a fringe presidential candidate in 2008, boycotted a Spanish-language Republican debate during the campaign, saying the event "pandered" to Spanish speakers and encouraged the "balkanization" of the U.S.
He also campaigned on a hard-line anti-immigration stance that included a proposal for reducing the number of legal immigrants allowed into the U.S.
"We have to have an immigration time-out, I think, in order to assimilate the people who have come here already," he said in a 2007 interview published in Time.
In an interview this month on Fox News, Tancredo referred to the proposed DREAM Act—which would allow children of illegal immigrants to attend college—as "a nightmare act." Tancredo is also infamous for suggesting that the U.S. threaten to bomb Mecca and other Islamic holy sites, as a "deterrent" to prevent future terrorist attacks.
Clemens said he doesn't "understand the direct connection between promoting, or even defending Western civilization, and the immigration of mainly westerners into the United States, from Mexico."
However, Tancredo and Youth for Western Civilization have argued this point fervently. In a video featured on the YWC Web site, Tancredo claims "a lot of people come here ... not desiring to disconnect [from the past] linguistically, familially, culturally, or even sometimes politically," thus threatening our way of life. A recent YWC blog post referred to an increasing Latino population in the U.S. as "La Reconquista" and said that a path to legalization for immigrants would mean American culture "would be assaulted."
Matheson said such language, "while it might be strong, [is] true." "We're talking about people who don't ... show much interest in learning English. And so that would change part of our culture, because we're going from English to Spanish."
In response to the event, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Room 103 of Bingham Hall, several campus groups have organized a "No Place for Hate" protest, which will consist of a concurrent dance party. The Carolina Hispanic Association (CHispA), Students for a Democratic Society and Feminist Students United are among the groups that have sponsored a protest petition, which has gathered 200 signatures.
"They're not bringing in people to talk about Proust and Shakespeare," said Patrick Toomey, a UNC sophomore who is participating in the protest. "This isn't about the great contributions Western civilization has made to history and culture. It's about hating certain people."
Read the Indy's full interview with Riley Matheson in this week's print edition, and follow Sam Wardle's coverage of the Tom Tancredo speech in our news blog, Triangulator.