Get a Life, Will Ya?

Chapel Hill, N.C., is a wonderful place. Situated on a gorgeous campus and one of the finest schools in the land, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is also home to the 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball champions.

It's paradise. You live in one of the best and prettiest college towns in America, your professors challenge you, your sports teams win (and not just men's hoops; the women's soccer program is the nation's best, for example), you count Michael Jordan and Andy Griffith as fellow Tar Heels, the live music scene thrives, your graduation is held in a football stadium and, if you're a North Carolina resident, your in-state tuition is low (which has saved many a North Carolinian from having to say, "Yes, I went to Duke.").

UNC students and faculty also are visited by the best speakers in the world. When I was student at Carolina, William F. Buckley addressed the campus. So did a sitting president, William Jefferson Clinton, to celebrate the school's 200th anniversary. Carolina students have it lucky.

Unfortunately, many UNC students didn't feel that way last night, when protests shut down — in the name of free speech — a lecture on immigration by former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who was invited by the Youth for Western Civilization, whatever that is.

You can imagine what happened — there was tear gas, Tasers and glass shattered at Bingham Hall. There were the predictable chants and the unpredictable, such as "Marco Polo."

A graduate student, who apparently had nothing better to do, said while he regretted the broken window (he'll regret it more if the University makes him pay for it!), he was proud to have silenced Tancredo because "You have to respect the right of people to assemble and speak freely." Huh?!

Meanwhile, a band called Stereo Total was playing at the Cat's Cradle, one of the school's sports teams was playing, "He's Not Here" was open and there were surely papers due and tests to study for. Instead, some students wanted to play protester and disrupt the speech. Given all there is to do at Chapel Hill, I'm reminded of William Shatner's classic exhortation from "Saturday Night Live" — "Get a life, will ya?"

Campus politics are nothing new at UNC. When I was a student, housekeeping pay and a "freestanding" Black Cultural Center were the main issues of the day. I wish I could tell you more about these critical campus issues, but I was going to basketball and football games, seeing a weird band with a sax and fiddle led by some guy named Dave Matthews and, uh, studying.

Certainly, reasonable people can disagree about the details of immigration policy. In the meantime, however, if the students want to protest something and use "Marco Polo" as their rallying cry, maybe their time would be better spent protesting the university's policy of requiring all students to pass a swim test before graduating (although I love the policy; it's one more thing that makes Chapel Hill unique).

UPDATE: A fellow alum informs me that in 2006 the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did away with the swim test, as have many of the few remaining schools that continued with the test.

The further declining of standards in our schools is regrettable; we're getting to a point where perhaps even the U.S. Naval Academy could decide swimming was no longer required for graduation.

It also brings to mind Max Fischer from the movie "Rushmore," who, after learning that the school would no longer offer Latin (he had campaigned against Latin for years), then decided to devote his time to reinstating the language program.

Since it appears that so many UNC students would rather engage in protests and harass campus visitors than actually have fun and study while at the great university, here's hoping that there's one Max Fischer in the bunch who will work to reinstate the swim test requirement.

In the spring of 2006 it was the honored tradition of the swim test; who knows what it will be next. As Rushmore's Miss Cross asks Max, "Ni hilo sanctum estne?" — is nothing sacred?