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Audience members, T-shirts blast speaker's views

Student groups and professors made sure David Horowitz heard their criticisms during his speech Tuesday night.

An e-mail organizing a protest of Horowitz's appearance circulated to several student groups Tuesday several hours before Horowitz's speech began.

The e-mail was initially distributed by Associate Professor Diane Nelson of the cultural anthropology department. It suggested that students pull their shirts off at a set time during the speech.

"They claim [Horowitz] will 'expose academia'.... Here are some ways we will 'expose them,'" Nelson wrote in the e-mail, proceeding to describe how students should literally expose themselves. "I say we all wear jog bras (for ladies) and nothing (for boys) under our T-shirts and at a given signal pull them off."

The stripping never materialized, however, and all audience members remained seated and clothed.

About 45 students and faculty did wear shirts that read, "Why Didn't I Make the List?"-a reference to Horowitz's book, The Professors: 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.

The back of the shirts inferred that Horowitz is attempting to destroy intellectual freedom.

"Intimidation, Blacklisting, Litmus Testing, Narcing on Profs = Academic Freedom?" the shirt read.

The protesting audience members sat together in the left front rows of Page Auditorium. Some laughed and heckled at several of Horowitz's statements throughout his 45-minute lecture.

At times, Horowitz directed comments toward them.

When Horowitz said "professors are teaching students that America is the 'Great Satan,'" the protesting group laughed loudly. The response prompted Horowitz to say, "We've got some people on mushrooms in here."

Another time when audience members yelled out at his comments, Horowitz asked them "didn't your mother teach you manners?" This drew an ovation from the rest of the audience.

Junior Stephen Miller, a Chronicle columnist and president of Duke's chapter of Students for Academic Freedom-the group that organized the event-said he was disappointed by Nelson and the students who heckled Horowitz.

"It is absolutely inexcusable for a professor to organize students to disrupt a sanctioned University event," Miller said. "She is an embarrassment to Duke, and the University should use disciplinary action on her."

When the question-and-answer session began, Nelson was the first person of several to ask a question at the microphone.

"I'm hesitant to give you the microphone considering you came here to fight the exchange of free views," Miller said.

Nelson said she did not go to the event with the intention of disrupting the speech but noted that she was compelled to because some of Horowitz's statements merited ridicule.

"We came to listen to him. We didn't come to disrupt him," Nelson said. "We couldn't help but laugh at some of the things he said-like when he said professors only work five hours a week."

Although the e-mail from Nelson said to pick up the anti-Horowitz shirts in her office, she said the protest to the speech was not her idea but rather the brainchild of several student groups.

"It was organized by many different students," Nelson said. "Horowitz has attracted a lot of attention, and people have been talking about doing something [during the event] for a long time."

Jamal Modir contributed to this story.


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