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UNC panel examines possible hate crimes policy

Posted December 17, 2008

— A University of North Carolina panel struggled Wednesday with free-speech protections as members considered whether the 16-campus university system needs a policy to address hate crimes.

UNC President Erskine Bowles appointed the UNC Study Commission to Review Student Codes of Conduct as They Relate to Hate Crimes, which includes students, staff and faculty from 10 UNC campuses, after four North Carolina State University students spray-painted racist graffiti on campus last month.

The students painted the graffiti on the walls of the school's "Free Expression Tunnel" the night that Barack Obama was elected president. Two of the messages 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, but officials said they had no grounds to do that.

"This is an important conversation for us to have, (but) it is unfortunate that we have to do so as a result of the situation at N.C. State," said Harold Martin, UNC senior vice president for academic affairs, who chairs the commission.

The panel heard from Hugh Stevens, a Raleigh attorney who specializes in First Amendment cases.

"I concurred with all of the authorities who concluded that (the students) were also protected by the First Amendment," said Stevens, who added that he found the graffiti embarrassing.

Laura Luger, UNC vice president and general counsel, said any policy can't be targeted toward a group or idea.

"It is over historical events and incidents (involving) offensive, unpopular, controversial speech that the First Amendment has protected," Luger said.

The group also reviewed hate crime policies in California, Texas and Minnesota that Martin said define what is considered a hate crime.

A public forum has been scheduled for Jan. 15 – the location hasn't been set – so commission members can hear from students and others.

Bowles has set a March 31 deadline for the group's recommendations on a policy and on whether all UNC students should be required to take diversity training.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • brentf777 Dec 18, 2008

    Hate crimes laws = "thought police" = Communism!

  • TheAdmiral Dec 17, 2008

    If punishment is based on the color of one's skin, then the justice system and those who are for it are just as racist as the person doing the crime.

  • TheAdmiral Dec 17, 2008

    What the overly sensitive and politically correct don't seem to understand is that they want to water down free speech and indoctrinate a "thought police."

    Even 20 years ago - this kind of thinking would have been considered abnormal and you would have been laughed into seclusion. Now that the socialist politically correct overly sensitive have become what they believe is main stream, now we are discussing taking away the first amendment because someone was offended.

    No where in the constitution or in the bible does it say that you have a right or a blessing to not be offended. It is neither. It is a fact of life.

    Whenever we can purge these overly sensitive and politically correct people from the political and educational process, then we might have a discussion - but until then, we will never have a meaningful discussion about racial slurs or racially based crimes.

  • atozca Dec 17, 2008

    "MLK told us to judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Have we forgotten this?"

    The NAACP seems to have never understood this concept.
    What is the difference between the comments of the students and all the trash talk I read and hear against Bush?

  • groovyguru Dec 17, 2008

    You are basing the punishment for a crime on the color of the victim's skin. How is this equal justice?

  • FloydTurbo Dec 17, 2008

    "Hate crimes" will be like "pornography" .... "I can't define it but I know it when I see it" .... unfortunately that works only for the individual seeing it. The concept of a National Censor on porn or "good taste" has defied our country's greatest minds for 200 years. ......

    I rather doubt a random group of UNC students and admins qualify as "great minds". Neither do Rev Barber or Pres Bowles.

  • SaveEnergyMan Dec 17, 2008

    The Bill of Rights effectively provides freedom of thought and its free exercise, through speach, press, and religion. When we control what people think, then we have subjugated them. A free society allows people to have opinions and to express them in a public forum. Many opinions we don't agree with and some are downright disgusting. But, we must protect their right to their opinion.

    Punishments for crimes already take into consideration the circumstances, it is not illegal to hate someone, just to commit the crime. Why is it any worse when a crime is white on black, than white on white or black on black? MLK told us to judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Have we forgotten this? It would seem that guilt over the past made this law, rather than reason and the hope for a race-free future.

  • ncguy71 Dec 17, 2008

    Sounds like an NAACP shakedown to me....

  • ugottabkiddinme Dec 17, 2008

    This is rediculious.... a crime is a crime they are all motivated from hate or jealousy. to me its bias for the victoms, of i geuss for a lack of a better word LOVE crimes.yougottabekiddnme....how bout spending time on issues that effect the whole of society not a few for a change

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Dec 17, 2008

    Well said, atnor. I agree 100%!