Jay Schalin of the Martin Center argues in a new column that activists at UNC-Chapel Hill are adding blackmail to their existing crime of mob rule.

The proper term for the actions of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate student assistants and instructors threatening to withhold grades unless Silent Sam—a statue of a Confederate soldier who was pulled off his pedestal by a mob of activists in August—is removed from campus is not “strike,” as the activists claim. It is “blackmail.”

Blackmail is when one individual or group holds information over another’s head to force them to do their bidding. Granted, this one has a slight twist; usually, blackmail consists of somebody having damaging information that will humiliate or damage their victim unless they submit. This time, the blackmailers—and only the blackmailers—have information that is the administration’s and students’ right to know. They have declared that the students and administration will not receive the grades unless they do what the graduate students want. …

… There’s only one way to deal with blackmailers (unless lives are at stake), or forever be under their thumb. You call their bluff and take them down. Unless the UNC administration or governing boards are willing to take that step, all manner of other problems will arise.

The most obvious of these problems is that the university will have handed control of the campus to blackmailers. What happens when the next controversy arises? Say, when a conservative speaker is invited by a campus group? Or somebody wants funding for a politicized activity? Or graduate students want actual union representation?

Unless the school makes it clear that extortion will not work, they can expect this tactic to continue.