The hate speech incident that occurred in the Free Expression Tunnel just two weeks ago continues to plague the campus community, from the students all the way to the administration. Everyday that goes by, students remain wondering whether or not they will be safe walking to their evening courses and nervous about being confronted or being referred to by use of racial epithets. Students have decided to move forward with the movement to stop the continuance of hate speech used in the Free Expression Tunnel. However, others debate by doing so, you will be surrendering your First Amendment rights.
The N.C. State chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a meeting last Tuesday to further protest the racist remarks left in the tunnel on Nov. 5th. Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter opened the meeting by challenging students to no longer sit aside and allow people of any denomination to destroy the learning experience on campus. Barber reflected on several reasons that students should be concerned about the social environment on campus, including last year’s incident with the noose hung in a facilities building on west campus and in the Department of Transportation.
With these issues arising in a post Virginia Tech society, students try to be more observant of strange behaviors in classmates and friends. After the death of students and staff, people have begun to realize that the signs of a potentially dangerous student are valid causes for concern for the university. The signs are here now on our campus, and people are concerned that the same incident could happen if we don’t take acts like these more seriously. Candace Lee, a senior in business management said, “I feel like people have to die before we get people to change, and administration [to] make policy changes that will protect its students, faculty and staff.”
Rev. Barber said, “We don’t know what people have in their minds; people that are educated and filled with hatred are a dangerous combination.” He followed up by telling the room filled with over 200 attendees that there are, “33 active hate groups within North Carolina. We don’t take this business lightly.” He further included, “This forum is about this campus recognizing this is a time for change throughout the nation and mainly on this campus.” He feels this hate speech language was pre-meditated, should not be tolerated, and students should no longer stand for it.
The focus for the night’s event was to hear the voices of the students and what they want administration to implement to change the campus climate. Dr. Tom Stafford, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, responded to the question posed by Justin Gorham, a junior in computer science and mathematics, about the identity of the four perpetrators, while reflecting on the black student who made the front page of the Technician just last year for a crime he allegedly committed. Stafford said, “The difference is these students are protected by the federal government.”
This forum made students feel stronger about administration hearing their request face-to-face, rather than in written complaint letters. Jessica Couch said, “They are terrorists, and they shouldn’t be accepted at N.C. State; this issue needs to be dealt with more seriously.” Brenda Stanton said, “If I was a high school student I wouldn’t want to go here; this goes way beyond N.C. State,” referring to this issue not just affecting our campus community but people across the nation.