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Editorial: No Border Patrol at UC Irvine career fair, and that’s a shame

Border Patrol agents apprehend immigrants, mostly from Central America, along the Texas/Mexico border near McAllen, Texas.

Border Patrol agents apprehend immigrants, mostly from Central America, along the Texas/Mexico border near McAllen, Texas.

(Los Angeles Times)

When UC Irvine holds its student career fair Thursday, the event will be missing one employer that had planned to be there: the U.S. Border Patrol. And though it probably won’t make much difference to the success of the affair, it’s another disappointing example of intolerance on campus and attempts by students — successfully in this case — to stifle opposing opinions.

According to several reports, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, voluntarily pulled out after a petition drive gathered several hundred signatures and objections were raised by the president of the Associated Students of UC Irvine. Both asserted that the Border Patrol’s participation was insensitive to the school’s hundreds of undocumented students. “We cannot expect undocumented students to not be unhappy or frustrated, that’s only natural,” said Parshan Khosravi, head of the student group.

Yes, it’s quite understandable that students who are not in the country legally would feel uncomfortable with the agency’s presence. But where did students get the idea that no one on campus should ever have to be unhappy or frustrated? Or that the only ones whom it might be all right to frustrate are those who might be interested in a job with the Border Patrol, or with any other controversial employer?

The students involved won a petty, politically correct battle but sadly lost sight of the bigger issue: Universities play a vital role as bastions of unfettered speech. It is precisely the kind of place that should make room for widely disparate views, whether those come in the form of a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States, whose address in 2010 was systematically disrupted by a group of Muslim students, or a recruiting visit by a politically unpopular organization.

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UC Irvine administrators admirably refused to give in to the protesters, who were trying to force the university to reflect the opinions of some of its students rather than all. The protesters get to claim victory anyway because the Border Patrol tactfully pulled out, keeping an employment opportunity from turning into a demonstration.

It’s important for students to remember this: Many of the positive reforms on campus — the efforts to enroll a more diverse student body and extend financial aid to undocumented students are just two germane examples — were the result of impassioned debates. The ability to cut off someone else’s participation looks good only when you’re the one shutting them down; it looks more like tyranny against new and different ideas to those who aren’t allowed to participate.

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