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UChicago students demand conservative debate club be punished for mocking illegal immigration

Administrators, however, reject call to ‘defund and deactivate the Edmund Burke Society’

Amid a call to defund and deactivate a conservative debate club at the University of Chicago Law School over a controversial flyer posted on campus, a university administrator has said the group didn’t violate campus policy and won’t be punished over the incident.

A student leader called for shutting down the Edmund Burke Society earlier this month after the group faced ridicule for a provocative “whip sheet” it created to generate interest for an upcoming debate on immigration. However, the law school’s dean has rejected the call to defund the group, saying it’s “inconsistent with the values and policies of the University of Chicago.”

The Burke Society ended up canceling its Feb. 6 immigration debate amid the outrage over the whip sheet’s “hyperbolic language,” used to exaggerate and parody arguments that pundits and commentators on both sides of the issue may make in a debate.

“If the essence of a nation is its people, allowing foreign bodies to enter is inviting disease into the body politic,” the whip sheet stated.

Another part of the promotional document stated “chain migration is only as strong as the weakest link; no engineer is worth the drag of a freeloading cousin.”

While hyperbolic and satirical, some students at the University of Chicago Law School said they felt harmed and marginalized by the language used on the whip sheet. Dozens of faculty members and students attended a town hall event on Feb. 5 that discussed the controversial whip sheet, according to The Chicago Maroon.

At that town hall meeting, the Burke Society’s chairman Eric Wessan said the whip sheet wasn’t meant to offend and that the document “takes the voice of a caricature of conservative arguments, and some of these arguments can be ‘out there.’” Wessan also apologized for the group’s flyer.

“I want to let everyone in here know that, without equivocation, I wish we had not done this. I regret that the language of the Whip Sheet hurt my classmates, and in the future, we promise to be more deliberate about the language that we use,” Wessan said.

The Edmund Burke Society did not respond to The College Fix’s requests for comment.

Though, even as Wessan issued his apology, one student leader on campus wrote in a letter to two law school deans that he planned to take action to defund the Burke Society.

In a letter dated Feb. 5, the same day as the town hall meeting where Wessan apologized, Law Students Association president Sean Planchard criticized the “abdication of leadership” from the law school’s administration regarding the Burke Society’s whip sheet.

Additionally, Planchard said he intended to bring forth a resolution to “defund and deactivate the Edmund Burke Society based on its repeated and documented misconduct” if the university didn’t act on the matter.

However, two days later, University of Chicago law school dean Thomas Miles shot down Planchard’s suggestion to defund and deactivate the Burke Society. In a response to Planchard, Miles said the Burke Society’s whip sheet did not violate school policy and therefore neither the administration nor the Law Students Association could take action against the group.

“As you know, the Law School is part of the University of Chicago, and we are committed to the University’s core values and bound by the University’s policies. Defunding or deactivating student groups on the basis of their speech is inconsistent with the values and policies of the University of Chicago,” Miles said in his letter, according to a copy posted on the website Above The Law.

MORE: U.S. college campuses embrace illegal immigrants

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About the Author
Nathan Rubbelke served as a staff reporter for The College Fix with a specialty on investigative and enterprise reporting from 2017 to 2018. He has also held editorial positions at The Commercial Review daily newspaper in Portland, Indiana, as well as at The Washington Examiner, Red Alert Politics and St. Louis Public Radio. Rubbelke graduated from Saint Louis University, where he majored in political science and sociology.