UNC’s “conservative voice,” Carolina Review needs money. Its editors have asked state’s top Republicans for help.

UNC’s “conservative voice,” Carolina Review needs money. Its editors have asked state’s top Republicans for help.

- in Higher Ed, News, Top Story
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby and N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby and N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore are expected to speak at a fundraiser this fall for UNC-Chapel Hill’s student-run conservative publication, The Carolina Review, according to the magazine’s editors. 

The event comes after a series of cyberattacks on The Carolina Review in late April. One of the publication’s metal distribution boxes in Chapel Hill was tagged with the word “racist.” A day later, their website was hacked. The hackers deleted over 10 years’ worth of articles, said Bryson Piscitelli, The Carolina Reviews editor-in-chief, and left the phrase “Nazi scum f*ck off” underneath Piscitelli’s name on the site.

The fundraiser, scheduled for September, hopes to fund a massive overhaul of The Carolina Review. The magazine plans to purchase audio and video equipment, expand print production and rent an office space in Chapel Hill. It is the latest push in a concerted effort to revitalize the conservative magazine, which until recently had vanished into relative obscurity on campus.

“The state GOP definitely supports us,” Piscitelli told Policy Watch.

Moore and Newby did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The paper’s publication schedule has declined over the past several years, the infrequency of which has hurt fundraising. “When I took over The Carolina Review it was a self-professed monthly journal that had published one time for the school year,” Piscitelli said. “… So it was not really doing so well.”

Bryson Piscitelli, The Carolina Review’s editor-in-chief

During Piscetelli’s tenure as editor, the Review has ramped up production, hired more writers, published magazines more quickly and installed metal distribution boxes around campus, which were funded a grant from The Pope Foundation.

The Pope Foundation, named after the father of millionaire businessman, GOP donor and Board of Governors member Art Pope, awards grants to conservative causes. It is also a donor to conservative think tanks, under its organizational umbrella, such as the John Locke Foundation and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

Representatives at the Pope Foundation did not return requests for comment on this story.

The magazine has launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $40,000 to “rebuild” the publication:

  •  $1,200 to reprint the magazine’s March-April issue
  • $1,800 to relocate the magazine’s website to a more secure host
  • $2,000 to purchase media equipment, including a DSLR camera, microphones and more
  • $15,000 to expand print magazine production, with the goal of over 1,000 print copies per issue
  • $20,000 towards leasing an office space in Chapel Hill

In the past month that the GoFundMe has been online, it has raised $4,000 of its $40,000 goal.

“We never expected to actually get the 40 grand in the GoFundMe,” Piscitelli said. “We just wanted to show transparently to everyone that we want to raise that much money, we want to show people what we’re planning to do.”

That’s why Piscitelli decided to plan the upcoming fundraiser, which he expects to bring around 200 donors.

“We still are absolutely 100 percent planning to, if possible, get every single one of the plans that are listed in the GoFundMe funded in some capacity,” he said.

Elliot Gualano, the Review’s managing editor and treasurer, said he is organizing the fundraiser in conjunction with his nonprofit, The Carolina Liberty Foundation, of which he is the CEO.

“The Carolina Liberty Foundation is a nonprofit organization that promotes conservatism, libertarianism and generally classical liberal thought on campus — meaning values of free thought, liberty and public discourse,” Gualano said.

Financial disclosures from the Carolina Liberty Foundation are not available through the IRS because the organization’s gross receipts for 2019 were less than $50,000.

While campus police initially investigated the incident, Piscitelli said the case has been transferred to Chapel Hill Police. When Policy Watch reached out to Chapel Hill Police, they said the case was now in the jurisdiction of UNC Police — who have not returned requests for comment.

Piscitelli said he asked UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to send a formal email to students asking for information on the hacker, but that Piscitelli received no response.

“#UNC condemns vandalism and rhetoric that discourages students from speaking freely on campus,” read an April 30 statement from UNC’s Twitter account. “#UNC strives to foster an environment?where everyone, regardless of identity, background or perspective, can enjoy their right to free expression – especially our student press – and their sense of safety and belonging. UNC Police are investigating this incident. 

Two days after The Carolina Review launched its new fundraising campaign, Piscitelli appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss the hack.  “Things really are as bad as you think, if not worse,” he said. “Conservatives need help in academia.”

 When the show’s host asked if The Carolina Review was racist, Piscatelli laughed and said no.

 “We are not a racist publication,” he said. “We do not discriminate on skin color. Frankly, I think that anyone that is familiar with academia at this point realizes that if you are on the right, you are a racist. It doesn’t matter if you are racist or not — you are racist in the eyes of the left.”

 A minute later he quoted former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms of  North Carolina, an infamous opponent of racial integration.

“I like the old Jesse Helms quote,” Piscitelli told Fox & Friends. “‘We don’t need a zoo, we can put a fence around Chapel Hill.’”

Piscitelli also commented on the hiring of Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, as the Knight Chair of Race and Investigative Journalism for UNC Hussman, the university’s journalism school.

At the time of Piscitelli’s Fox interview, the news had not yet broken that Hannah-Jones would not be granted tenure – a striking departure from precedent for UNC’s Knight Chairs. 

As Policy Watch has reported, Hannah-Jones’s work has drawn widespread conservative ire for its centering of American history on slavery.

“Unfortunately, I have to admit I’m glad that we have a free interchange of ideas,” Piscitelli said on Fox. “I don’t particularly find anything wrong with bringing someone of her ideological strain on the faculty for the sake of having that viewpoint. The problem is when you have that as a rule, which is what you have at UNC. We need to have someone on the opposite end.”

When Policy Watch spoke with Piscitelli last week, he said he still agreed with the broad strokes of his comments on Fox, but had shifted his opinion on Hannah-Jones’ hire.

“I will admit, when I went on Fox, I was not very familiar with the whole situation,” he said. “…When we’re producing people that are not just unhealthy, so to speak, but are actually malignant, they’re malicious, they are raised to think that America is fundamentally evil, that America was founded on on an original sin that can never be cleansed unless we tear everything down and build it up again — that is something that no taxpayer dollars should ever go to in my opinion.”

Founded in 1993, The Carolina Review has defined itself in opposition to what it sees as a liberal hegemony on UNC’s campus.

“A university is a place that must welcome diverse views from across the political spectrum,” Mark McNeilly, the Review’s faculty advisor said in an email. “However, we know from 2019 research of over 1,000 UNC undergraduates that some students are intolerant of other students’ views, particularly conservative views.

“For example, in the research we know that 19 percent of students who identified as liberal were willing to take actions to prevent speech they find objectionable, including obstructing speakers or blocking other students from hearing speakers (the corresponding number of conservatives willing to do so was 3 percent).  The message from our administration and faculty must be that denying others’ right to speak is inappropriate and that the best way to deal with speech one finds objectionable is to challenge it with one’s own perspective and facts.”

McNeilly disclosed that he was one of three co-authors on the study mentioned.

It also has positioned itself as contrarian, even to science. The February 2021 issue lambasted the University for “draconian” COVID-19 safety precautions, and celebrated the actions of students who rushed Franklin Street after the UNC basketball team’s win over Duke . Prior to the game, students had been explicitly advised not attend the mass gathering, as it would be a violation of the university’s COVID-19 community guidelines.

When the game occurred, hundreds of students had been either in isolation or quarantined the previous semester. At the time, the university was holding classes remotely.

The publication has a long history of objectionable speech. Its inaugural issue was dedicated to opposing the construction of the Sonja Hayes Black Cultural Center at UNC.

“…This generation of Blacks is apparently either ungrateful or unappreciative of the struggle through which previous generations went,” read an article in the magazine. “They want to be separate, to be ‘free-standing,’ to segregate the other races from themselves.”

 In a later edition, the magazine depicted a Jewish candidate for Student Body President, Aaron Nelson, with devil horns and a pitchfork on the front page. Inside, an article claimed that Nelson was biased against Christian and Muslim groups because of his religion.

 “It is an extraordinarily telling indictment of Nelson’s approach when one considers InterVarsity and the Muslim Student Association were stripped of funding while Hillel, UNC’s student Jewish group, breezed through Congress,” an article by Charlton Allen, the magazine’s founder said. “The difference for Nelson is simple — he is Jewish.”

The issue drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League and a group of Jewish professors who called on then-Chancellor Michael Hooker to censure The Carolina Review. Hooker affirmed the right of students to free speech but called the article “deeply offensive” and “inappropriate.” The magazine’s faculty advisor resigned and the paper fell into another period of obscurity.

Meanwhile, Allen went on to become a member of the state Industrial Commission under the McCrory administration.

More recently, House Speaker Tim Moore’s son is a staff writer for the publication this year. “He has been instrumental in securing his [Speaker Moore’s] endorsement,” Gualano said. 

UNC journalism student Kyle Ingram is a summer intern at NC Policy Watch.