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UNC system to study hate crime policy

Posted November 25, 2008

— The University of North Carolina system will examine whether a policy is needed to address possible hate crimes on the system's 16 campuses.

UNC President Erskine Bowles said he would appoint a commission to study the issue and give him its recommendation by March 31.

The move comes three weeks after four North Carolina State University students painted racist graffiti in the "Free Expression Tunnel" on campus. Two of the messages, which were painted the night Barack Obama won the presidential election, said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head" and "Hang Obama by a noose."

Officials with the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for the students to be expelled, and they criticized what they termed a "tepid response" to the incident by N.C. State officials.

State NAACP President Rev. William Barber said he wanted to talk with Bowles about a more aggressive policy for handling hate crimes on the 16 UNC campuses, though prosecutors did not deem the State incident a crime.

Bowles said no grounds exist for expelling the four N.C. State students, but he was troubled by the incident.

"I find this whole incident to be deplorable," he said. "It hurts deeply. It is offensive, and I believe it is just plain wrong."

In addition to considering a hate crimes policy, Bowles said he also is looking at requiring all new university students to take classes in diversity training.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby told NAACP officials that the N.C. State graffiti didn't amount to a hate crime, so he had no plans of pressing criminal charges. Authorities would be hard-pressed to prove an intent of any threat against Obama from the students, he said.

Officials with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday expressed concern about efforts to punish students for graffiti, saying hateful speech isn't a hate crime.

Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of ACLU North Carolina, said the anti-Obama statements were reprehensible, but treating them as a hate crime amounts to censorship.

"Hate speech alone, with no criminal actions that follow, is protected by the First Amendment," Rudinger said. "We agree with the NAACP that more diversity training campus-wide would be a good idea, and we applaud the students and administrators who have risen up to denounce what was written on that wall and who have demonstrated that the sentiments on that wall are not welcome here. But censorship is not the answer."

Barber said the graffiti isn't a free-speech issue.

"They don't know in their heart what it's like to hear those words. They don't know what it's like to have a history of leaders being shot in the head," he said.

The NAACP hasn't decided whether to lobby lawmakers for a change in state law to make racist graffiti a hate crime, he said.

120 Comments

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  • shep8851 Nov 26, 8:29 p.m.

    does anyone know where the original story went???? It seems to have disappeared for some strange reason.

  • FragmentFour Nov 26, 6:41 p.m.

    "It is not (and should not be) a crime to use a racist term."

    Indeed. And I find it humorous that the organization most ferociously battling for the right of free speech in this case is the ACLU.

  • NE Raleigh Nov 26, 4:39 p.m.

    Stop wasting time and resources on this nautical nonsense.

  • whiffleball Nov 26, 3:05 p.m.

    Why is the NAACP regarded as a relevant organization? If such an organization existed for Caucasians if would be considered racist.

  • paythepiper Nov 26, 2:53 p.m.

    "Free Expression Tunnel"

    Seems like the tunnel is not so free after all. Talking is not a crime, unless a verifiable threat is made, then it is called communicating threats. Someone once said "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend with my life your right to say it."

    People have a right to express themselves, whether you or me agree with what they say is irrelevant. No crime was committed here, none was intended. Just that simple.

  • doubletap357 Nov 26, 1:44 p.m.

    TruthBKnown Returns is right. I can't think of a thing to add.

  • jsanders Nov 26, 1:41 p.m.

    Needs to be reiterated:

    "There's a BIG difference between hate speech and a hate crime. Hate speech is speech (a protected right), and a hate crime is a crime (not protected).

    We need to drop all this "hate this" and "hate that" and just call something what it is. If it's speech, shut up about it. If it's a crime, then arrest someone.

    It is not (and should not be) a crime to use a racist term.

    It sickens me how many people want to give up a fundamental RIGHT because of political correctness."

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Nov 26, 1:29 p.m.

    There's a BIG difference between hate speech and a hate crime. Hate speech is speech (a protected right), and a hate crime is a crime (not protected).

    We need to drop all this "hate this" and "hate that" and just call something what it is. If it's speech, shut up about it. If it's a crime, then arrest someone.

    It is not (and should not be) a crime to use a racist term.

    It sickens me how many people want to give up a fundamental RIGHT because of political correctness.

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Nov 26, 1:28 p.m.

    hey souljp1.....I THINK we just elected a black president....there are not enough black people to do that without the help of a large number of white people.....I think that argument may be over!

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Nov 26, 1:25 p.m.

    ALL THIS EFFORT....yet I read story after story where an ACTUAL CRIME was commited....I guess it's easier to SAY you're doing something about crime, than to actually DO anything. It's also easier to stay in the news yelling RACISM, than worrying about education, or abortions, or fatherless children....but who am I to say?

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