Over the past week, Chancellor Randy Woodson issued two responses to racist statements that have been circulating on social media involving current students and an admitted NC State student. As a staff, we feel these responses are lacking in substance, not only because of Woodson’s inability to cite the action being taken, but because of the pattern of inadequate responses the campus has had to racism in the past.
This is not the first time NC State has served us shallow responses to blatant racism.
In 2016, Woodson maintained that the racist language used in two specific GroupMe conversations between students was protected by the First Amendment. The language included highly offensive and disgusting racial slurs and threats to incite violence on Black Lives Matter protestors on campus. Again in 2016, flyers claiming there was “#WHITEGENOCIDE” surfaced on campus using white supremacist rhetoric, and the University once again maintained that the speech was protected by the First Amendment. In a recent statement from Student Government, Student Body President Melanie Flowers and other black student leaders detailed racial slurs and racist messages, appearing regularly throughout the academic year, from April in the Free Expression Tunnel, including the n-word and threats of violence against the black community.
Following the 2016 racist GroupMe conversations, the University held a Racial Climate Town Hall to address these issues. However, these town halls are rare and top university officials, like the chancellor and deans, are not in attendance.
In light of recent events, we stand behind Oluwajoba Ogun’s column for Nubian Message, and agree that severe disciplinary action needs to be taken in hate speech cases like the ones cited, as well as those that go unreported because students know the school will not take them seriously.
NC State remains disappointingly impartial in acts of blatant racism on our campus. For too long our campus has stood on the sidelines of racial justice instead of choosing to stand up for our black students. It’s time to stop playing both sides and show compassion and support for our students of color by taking action against those who undermine, offend and hurt marginalized communities at our university.
While we recognize this inflammatory speech is protected by the First Amendment, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling of Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), we believe the university must do more in preventing, condemning and responding to these acts, as well as educating students, faculty and staff on the importance of cultural inclusion.
We expect to be made aware of the options the university can take for cases involving hate speech like this. We also understand the university cannot disclose what is being done in a specific case, but we ask that, similarly to how crime statistics are reported, biased, prejudiced and racist incidents on campus be reported regularly.
NC State is required by the Clery Act to report campus crime statistics, including hate crimes. We believe this practice should be expanded to include biased incidents that may not fall under the legal definition of a “hate crime.” NC State should be held accountable for their lack of action on and prevention of these incidents.
Currently, the university has six programs and initiatives to implement diversity education on campus, but only one of them, the U.S. Diversity GEP class requirement, is mandatory for undergraduates. The other five programs are education for post-doctoral and doctoral students, interfaith prayer spaces, recognition for excellence in equity, diversity and inclusion, faculty training for cultural competency and cultural programs planned by the University for students to attend. Four of the five are directed toward graduate students, doctoral students and religious minorities, and these programs focus largely on education.
The only other program possibly directed to undergraduate education is the option to attend cultural events on campus. A single U.S. Diversity GEP requirement is not going to single-handedly solve the backwards mindset of racist students on campus, and it’s absurd for our university officials to think it’s enough. Students are not required to attend cultural events, and racist students are even less likely to attend these events due to their biases. The University must do more to address this issue.
NC State should not be solely responsible for training inclusivity into its students, but should be known for creating a culture where bigots aren’t welcome.
If Woodson claims “racism and bigotry in any form have no place at NC State,” our University should no longer be complicit in or complacent about acts of racism.
Vague language is not enough. Saying the university is “working to improve” in certain areas without acknowledging disciplinary actions in a follow-up response isn’t what we wanted. This response left us with more questions than it answered and only enhanced our dissatisfaction with actions taken by the university.
Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Sheri Schwab said the university’s Strategic Planning Task Force for Advancing Diversity, Inclusion and Well-Being is working toward drafting a “new normal” for NC State, but if that “new normal” continues to include sweeping racist incidents under the rug, it’s not new. A “task force” is institutional jargon for putting this issue off for another few years. We need to know what the ramifications will be for incoming or current students who don’t represent the supposed values and morals of the university.
How can the university have an essay question on the importance of diversity in its application and still avoid punishing an incoming racist? Saying you are “committed to doing all we can to protect, promote and advance diversity, equity and inclusion” rings hollow when your university guidelines never address this issue.
Student Body President Melanie Flowers, along with the rest of Student Government, has already been more proactive than the University itself. *Student Government is working to establish a group of black student leaders to address these acts of anti-black racism on campus. When looking for role models of effective leadership, Chancellor Woodson should look to Melanie Flowers. Student Government should not feel obligated to do this. This should be the university administration’s job to address.
University administrators cannot manifest systemic racism out of NC State with vague words. What are you afraid of?
This unsigned editorial is the opinion of Technician’s editorial board and is the responsibility of the editor-in-chief.
*Editor's Note: Updated for accuracy
*Editor's Note: In an earlier form of this editorial, an on-campus protest was incorrectly attributed to University administration. This attribution has since been removed on June 6, 2020.