Chris Powell: A question of press freedom at UConn

Published on Sunday, 25 February 2018 20:54


Did the University of Connecticut try to punish WTIC-AM1080 for its political programming as a condition of extending the radio station’s longstanding contract to broadcast the games of the university’s basketball, football, and hockey teams?

That’s what a station official, Phil Zachary, told the Journal Inquirer’s Matt Buckler last week after UConn took the contract away. “The school felt that the conservative programming that WTIC airs is at odds with the best interest of the university,” Zachary said.

UConn quickly denied it, and it may be hard to determine who is lying or misleading. But there is a fair question of press freedom here because the university increasingly has become politically partisan.

Four years ago UConn paid prospective Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a quarter-million dollars for spending a couple of hours in a public discussion on campus with university President Susan Herbst. Lately the university repeatedly has demonstrated its intolerance of opinion it considers politically incorrect.

Last November a conservative polemicist visiting UConn was shouted down by students and assaulted by a state employee while university security officers stood aside, offering him no protection. Indeed, the speaker himself was even arrested for trying to grab his speech back from the state employee who stole it from him. (The charge was dropped in court.)

A few weeks ago UConn’s “chief diversity officer” warned students by email that they risked mental illness if they listened to the views of another conservative visiting the university to speak. The university did not reprimand her.

The current state administration refuses to provide oversight for UConn, which is another argument for a new state administration.

Vouching for good people

Deportation of an illegal alien couple from China who have been long established in the Farmington and Simsbury area seems to have been postponed indefinitely because of Governor Malloy’s intervention. He wrote to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security noting that the couple are productive, have caused no problems, have two U.S.-citizen children, and have the support of their community, so deporting them isn’t worth the trouble.

In effect Connecticut’s highest official was vouching for the good behavior of the couple being targeted by immigration authorities. That sort of thing used to count for something. Indeed, in the old days members of Congress addressed such hardship situations with what were called private citizenship bills, which, upon enactment into federal law, granted citizenship to particular people.

Also in the old days immigration law specifically provided for legitimizing people who had entered illegally but had spent at least 10 years here and had demonstrated good character throughout. According to a former immigration lawyer for the government, Robert Kim Bingham of Salem, the law was updated through the years, most recently under President Ronald Reagan in 1984, giving a chance at legal residency and citizenship to applicants who could show they had been in the country since 1972.

Bingham notes that the law remains in force and updating its eligibility year from 1972 to, say, 2006, would help many illegal immigrants who already have proved themselves decent. That was Reagan’s policy.

Of course that law won’t and really shouldn’t be updated until the members of Congress who purport to be friends of hardship cases agree to increase border security to get immigration under control. But the humane principle of the law is clear. If a governor and a community can vouch for people with an immigration problem, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Columns on Sunday, 25 February 2018 20:54. Updated: Sunday, 25 February 2018 20:56.