Every year is its own adventure for all students, but this past school year has been an especially interesting one for students here on campus. At the beginning of the year, the focus of the entire community on and off campus was brought together by the prospect of the historic election of our nation’s first African-American President. Students all over campus were involved on both sides of the election by organizing rallies, registering voters, and otherwise advocating for their party. President Obama’s election in November was an opportunity for many students to participate in both a major event in their lives (their first presidential election) and a major event in the country’s history.
Unfortunately, shortly after the election, the student body received a reminder of sentiments from the United States’ less than tolerant past. Racist graffiti with threats intended for the newly elected President Obama were painted on the free expression tunnel. The graffiti painted onto the Free Expression tunnel put the student body here into an unwanted spotlight.
The incident resulted in the involvement of the NAACP, which also resulted in a town hall meeting, where students were allowed to voice their concerns about their safety. It also resulted in the creation of a student task force, to focus on diversity that would produce suggestions about how to handle and prevent issues like these. However, for many people on campus and in the Raleigh community and surrounding areas, it also brought up discussions of the importance and rights to free speech on college campuses.
There were, thankfully, non-political things happening on campus for NCSU students this year. The homecoming festivities, and especially the Packhowl pep rally and concert headlined by N.E.R.D. and Common, were well attended, especially by the African-American community at NCSU and surrounding schools.
For some people, the tunnel incident may have put a damper on the day after the elections, but it did not seem to affect the celebration of the inauguration. Some NCSU student braved the frigid cold and record crowds to actually be a part of the inaugural moment in Washington, DC. Many others enjoyed the day on our campus during a somewhat unexpected snow day that kept us out of class.
The campus was also united by the death of our beloved women’s basketball coach, Kay Yow. Yow had coached at NCSU for 34 years, with a career long score compiling over seven hundred wins. Perhaps even more impressively, Yow had become an effective advocate for breast cancer research funding, and had helped bring women’s college basketball to the mainstream. Thousands of people paid their respects by wearing pink for breast cancer awareness, and painting the free expression tunnel pink. Thousands also attended a memorial service in honor of Yow and her many accomplishments in Reynolds Coliseum.
The year was capped off by another successful Pan Afrikan week which featured multiple excellent events, and was heightened by an exciting step and comedy show at the end of the week. The end of the year also saw another student government election, and the election of a new Student Body President, Jim Ceresnak.
The past year has been one to remember, with both historic highs and tragic lows. But no matter what one remembers, there is no doubt that everyone has learned or experienced something special this year. Whether it was the opportunity to learn from a life of giving and perseverance like Kay Yow’s, or to learn that things can truly change from a formerly impossible event, like the election of Barack Obama, the past year has had special lessons for all of us.