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August 13, 2004 [feather]
Two strikes and you're ...

Two years ago, administrators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill demonstrated their ignorance of the First Amendment when they ordered the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to strike wording from its constitution stipulating that the group's leaders be Christian. Such wording, the administrators argued, was discriminatory; when the IVF refused to cooperate, administrators threatened to withdraw the IVCF's school funding and to "de-recognize" the group. In a letter to IVCF, Jonathan E. Curtis, UNC's assistant director for student activities and organizations, told IVCF to ìmodify the wording of your charter or I will have no choice but to revoke your University recognition.î

FIRE successfully defended the group, explaining to UNC administrators how freedom of association works, and pointing out that the only discrimination in the case was their own discrimination against the IVCF. After the embarrassment of FIRE-instituted media exposure, UNC backed down and restored the group's rights. ìWhile the University continues to seek to ensure that our facilities and resources are not used in any way that fosters illegal discrimination, we also wish to uphold the principles of freedom of expression," Chancellor James Moeser said in a statement. "Thus I have asked our staff to allow IVCF to continue to operate as an official recognized student organization.î

That should have been a clear, unforgettable lesson. But apparently it was not. The very same administrator who made trouble for the IVCF in 2002, Jonathan E. Curtis, is now making the exact same trouble for another campus Christian organization, the Alpha Omega Iota Christian fraternity. AOI has a clause in its constitution similar to the one in IVCF's that required group leaders to be Christians. And last fall, Curtis pulled the same prank with AOI that he had pulled less than a year before with IVCF, informing AOI leaders that unless they reworded their constitution, they would lose their funding as well as their status as a recognized student group.

Curtis' threat initially led AOI members to decide against submitting the required annual application for recognition (AOI had been a recognized student group since 1999, and had not encountered problems until Curtis got involved in 2003). But now AOI is fighting back. FIRE wrote a letter to Moeser remonstrating with him last month. Having received no response, they are going public with the story of UNC's continued arrogant unwillingness to accord religious students their associational rights.

I think FIRE will win this one, just like it won the last one, and just like it has won a number of analogous cases at colleges and universities across the country. My question is, how many times does Jonathan Curtis get to flout the law, abuse students, and embarrass his employers before he is relieved of his job? In 2002, when he violated the IVCF's rights, he could plead ignorance--but he can't do that this time.

posted on August 13, 2004 7:06 AM


"My question is, how many times does Jonathan Curtis get to flout the law, abuse students, and embarrass his employers before he is relieved of his job?"

He's the Assistant Director for Student Activities. This is his job. The only way this sort of thing will stop is when donors and taxpayers start realizing that a big chunk, if not most, of the money that goes into our public university goes to assistant/executive/deputy directors of appeasing pressure groups/keeping drunken fights to a minimum/controling every waking second of the students lives. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not.

Posted by: Tipsy at August 13, 2004 9:36 AM

probably never!!! Well, in the hallowed halls od academia, Mr Curtis has demonstrated to the academic crowd, that he is 'on of them", in that he is a man of utmost bravery, for taking on those "pesky, politically-incorrect Christians"!!! Heck, in Ann Arbor, a person like Mr Curtis would probably be promoted immediately, and given a big payraise. He has demonstrated that he is on of those professional university administrators who is on the "correct" side!!!

Posted by: ronin at August 13, 2004 10:01 AM

He will be able to continue until someone in Academia realizes that the atheistic liberal point of view where something exists only while it is happening and then ceases to exist no longer pertains. Academia teaches history but seems to only accept it right now, not last week. It is called convenient amnesia.

I know that because I am conservative, I am at a huge disadvantage when dealing with Academia but until Academia accepts that there are actually several points of view acceptable politically, religiously, socially people like Curtis will continue to flaunt their actions without fear of being called on it most of the time. When they do get called on it, they just huff and puff and think that will work. I just hope the trustees of UNC wake up and see what is happening to their university and straighten out this guy's head or replace him with someone who is more inclusive.

Posted by: dick at August 13, 2004 4:46 PM

It would seem to me that since UNC is a public university, it must be answerable to some extent to the state's general assembly. The answer may be for the people of North Carolina to approach their legislators and demand a resolution that censures UNC for it's actions that violate Constitional protections. One thing most universities with a national reputation can't handle is negative publicity.

Posted by: ts at August 14, 2004 12:19 AM

All organizations are subject what is called "the agency problem." This means that employees (including officers) who are hired to pursue the interests of the organization may actually, to a greater or lesser degree, instead pursue interests of their own which may be contrary to those of the organization. Generally, the agency problem has been thought of in terms of the employee's *financial* interests. But increasingly, we seem to be seeing a variant of the agency problem in which the employee uses the organization to pursue his own *political and philosophical* interests. This variant is prevalent in both universities and the media.

Posted by: David Foster at August 14, 2004 10:42 AM

"And last fall, Curtis pulled the same prank with AOI that he had pulled less than a year before with IVCF"

Seems that he might be vulnerable to an action by AOI for damages arising from a year's delay in lawful activity. It's easy to show that he should know better than to revive that bogus decision. Any aspiring lawyers in AOI?

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive at August 14, 2004 3:52 PM

Found this article about Curtis:


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UNC administrator implicated in newspaper theft
Mike S. Adams (back to web version) | Send

August 16, 2004

UNC administrators had better stock up on Maalox because itís going to be a long week in Chapel Hill. Just last week the university was exposed for de-recognizing a Christian group without due process for an unthinkable transgression; they wanted to limit membership in the Christian group to people who are actually Christians.

Now, information has surfaced, which implicates the administrator who de-recognized the Christian group in the theft of a student newspaper in 1996. And wouldnít you know it; the stolen newspaper was the Carolina Review, the only conservative newspaper on campus.

The theft of the student newspapers took place in February of 1996 when a liberal student named Aaron Nelson was running for student body president at UNC-CH. The conservative Carolina Review printed a scathing critique of Nelsonís politics that was slated to appear in an issue to be released on Election Day. That was when the real trouble started.

Supporters of Nelsonís campaign stole 1500 copies of the Carolina Review in an effort to preserve victory for their liberal candidate. The copies were deposited in the office of Student Attorney General George Oliver some time between the closing of the office the day before and 9:00 a.m. on February 13 (Election Day).

Enter Jonathan Curtis (jon@email.unc.edu), the administrator in charge of the recognition of student groups at UNC-CH.

In an interview with the Daily Tar Heel (DTH), another student newspaper, Curtis admitted that only three administrators had master keys to the building where the 1500 stolen newspapers were found. Jonathan Curtis told the DTH that he was one of those three administrators.

One year after the theft of the paper, Tadd Wilson, a member of the Nelson campaign dropped a bombshell by disclosing the following in a guest column for the Carolina Review:

What (Jonathan) Curtis knew but could not say was that students were not the only ones involved (in the theft). He could not say so because he was the one whose key unlocked the door.

The serious accusations against Jonathan Curtis continued with the following:

(W)hen asked to open (Oliverís office), Curtis said ìI canít do that,î turned over his keys and turned his back. Another individual independently confirmed knowledge of Curtisí action. Curtisí involvement (in the theft) fills a major blank in the events leading up to Oliverís discovery of the (stolen) issues, in addition to explaining why Curtis had to testify for the defense at the Honor Court trial.

To make matters worse, Curtis has actually admitted to letting the newspaper thieves into the Attorney Generalís office. But Curtis denies that he saw the stolen newspapers in their possession. Unfortunately for Curtis, I have seen photographs of the stolen newspapers showing that they were stuffed by the hundreds into giant plastic bags. The words ìCarolina Reviewî were easily distinguishable on the hundreds of stolen copies because the bags were all transparent.

But Jonathan Curtis says that he didnít see any of the 1500 stolen newspapers while he was letting the thieves into a locked university office in the middle of the night.

Accusations of a) stealing newspapers to alter the outcome of a student election and, b) manipulating honor court hearings are serious when levied against students. They can result in expulsion or in criminal charges. When levied against university officials who are charged with the responsibility of administering justice, they are even more serious. Clearly, the responsibility of upholding the honor of a great university cannot be entrusted to the dishonorable.

But it may be too late for Chancellor James Moeser (chancellor@unc.edu) to give weight to these important considerations. Last week he decided to dig in his heels (no pun intended) and stand by his man Jonathan Curtis. His recent memo to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) www.thefire.org indicates that this showdown may soon be headed for federal court.

In the process of standing up for Curtis and against his Christian accusers, Chancellor Moeser will likely compound the embarrassment he brought on the university in 2003. That was when he originally tried to cover up the universityís treatment of religious organizations by making demonstrably false statements to the public. This time things will be even worse when evidence of Curtisí behavior is admitted in a court of law in a suit against the university.

But Moeserís recent response to the FIRE indicates that he has little understanding of the universityís obligation to remain viewpoint neutral in the administration of student funds and in the recognition of student groups.

One can only hope that Moeser did not know everything that is now surfacing about Jonathan Curtisí complicity in the theft of the Carolina Review. And there may be more bad news on the way.

To be continuedÖ

Authorís Note: The FIRE will respond to James Moeser on August 16th. That response will be posted on www.thefire.org.

©2004 Mike S. Adams

Contact Mike S. Adams | Read Adams's biography



Posted by: dick at August 16, 2004 5:13 PM

Erin: Thanks for the continuing close attention and commendation for the work of FIRE. As a member of their Board of Advisors I would urge all interested readers to SEND MONEY!!

There is no organization in the realm that does better work to protect and restore free discourse and individual rights in an academy still far too much burdened by the gate-keeper idiocies of deans, deanlets and other assorted administrators.

Posted by: milton rosenberg at August 17, 2004 7:11 PM

As an evangelical, I was very concerned with the Intervarsity situation. UNC backed down because they were off base. The AOI situation is entirely different. It may be fun to pile on when the humanists make mistakes---but I have news for one and all---AOI may win, but this situation is no slam dunk (pardon the UNC pun).

Posted by: David Dougherty at September 1, 2004 5:45 PM