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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, November 26, 1990. Interview L-0145. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of the press during the Speaker Ban controversy

Friday discusses the role of the press during the Speaker Ban controversy. In particular, Friday emphasizes his effort to maintain good relationships with the press and to keep them informed of the university's position on the controversy. In addition, he describes the triangular relationship of the press, the university, and the General Assembly.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William C. Friday, November 26, 1990. Interview L-0145. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I had to rely on the press, because I couldn't rely on the Board of Trustees at that time. So, Bill Snyder and Joe Doster, and Claude Sitton, and Pete McKnight, and his successor's. I'm sure that we talked every week. Because they were the one's that said the people, like yourself, would be reading your morning paper and see an editorial, here's where this thing is and here's what the contending forces are trying to do. If you had any sensible mannerness, you were kept informed. But even those people grew weary. You know, you can wear people out with things. And I learned that quickly. And so that's why you try to do some things without being in the press all of the time. You try to move it along. Well, that's something only an administrator will decide to do. So many people, you know, want to stand up and slay the dragon with drawn sword and pull plug its visibility. It doesn't happen that way. It never has and never will. And you have to swallow a lot of criticism, because you have to do it the way that you know it can be made to work. That was to take these successive steps. When you took one, then the next one suggested two or three options. And then you move from there to here. Always aiming that way though. But, sometimes it works. Most of the time it works. Sometimes it doesn't. And you just keep moving.
I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit more on the nature of your contacts with editor's, the editorial page people ߞ
Yeah. What happens in the case involving something as sensitive as this, you see they see it from their own interests. Because what you can do to an institution, you can do to anybody else, too. The Legislatureߞbut they also saw it as something driving a nail right through the heart of the University, because it had to be a freeߞa place of free ideas, of free expression, and free debate, or it's no University at all. Each one of them had been to school here, or had been associated with the place. They'd been associated with the Daily Tarheel, or something. And they all understood this, very carefully. And Bill Snider, and Claude Sitton particularlyߞthe News and Observer paper, were very strong in the advocacy of the University, and our position. And what we were trying to do. I don't think there was any major movement here, that I didn't keep them advised about. Becauseߞnot for my sake, but for the institution's sake. Because I knew, thatߞunless they knew exactly why Emmett Fields came into this picture, who he was representing. What his arguments were? Did I differ with him? What would the consequences be? All of that took an enormous amount of time, but it had to be done, because you would never understand the issue, if we didn't. Because your natural reaction when somebody like the Southern Association comes upon the seam, and they say, "Well, let's run those fellows out of here." They've got no business telling us what to do. When they were trying to get the position of saying, "We are your best friend. Because we hold the power that the General Assembly can't impact. We can take your accreditation away." Well, a threat is one thing. The fact is another. And you couldn't say to them, "Stay out of here." That's not our option. They have the right to do that. But you can say, "Let's try to work with people." And that's what I was doing. Fields and all of his people. And it took a lot of doing. But, a hard road.