Local News

Duke students: Slurs sadly no surprise

Posted November 6, 2015

— Jack Donahue said his sense of security at Duke University was "shattered" Thursday when someone targeted him with homophobic graffiti on a residence hall wall.

"I do not deserve this treatment and no one deserves this treatment," Donahue said Friday, addressing a group who gathered to hear his story outside Duke Chapel.

Other students spotted the graffiti, which mentioned Donahue by name, at about 3 a.m. Thursday in East Residence Hall.

"I was told about it before I saw it," Donahue said. "My dean came in and showed it to me. That was the only moment that I broke down. I always knew hate was out there but I’ve never had it directed at me."

Emilia Soulios, who lives in East Hall, called the message "really bizzare." She saw it as she walked to lunch.

"It honestly was so shocking for me to see that, but people can be hateful I guess," she said.

Soulios and her friends considered telling Donahue and even removing the graffiti.

"We weren’t sure if we should tell him because he doesn’t really need to know that," she said. "That’s not how anyone feels so we tried to clean it up and tell the RAs (resident assistants) about it."

Donahue intends to use his experience to press for change on campus.

"The person who wrote this on my wall is unimportant," he said. "The impact will come when people go back to their dorms and have these conversations."

Savannah Lynn, a member of Duke's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer group called Blue Devils United, said she, too, had felt threatened on campus because of her sexuality. 

"I can only imagine what he must have felt when he saw it," she said of Donahue.

She urged Duke administrators to do more.

"They can’t pretend like this is going to blow over, and they can’t pretend this is an isolated incident because it’s not. It’s going to keep happening if they don’t institute some sort of policy or protocol to deal with this," Lynn said.

Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for Public Affairs and Government Relations, asserted the administration's position of tolerance.

"Duke does not and will never condone intolerance, regardless of where and when it arises,” he said.


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  • Martha Matthews Nov 7, 2015
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    In a group seeking acceptance for their chosen lifestyle, why do they continue to include the word "queer" in it? I seriously doubt this incident will open up all kinds of discussions in the dorms like Mr. Donohue mentioned. It will be forgotten by this afternoon when the focus moves to the football game.

  • Will Sonnett Nov 6, 2015
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    Sadly no surprise that hyperbole substitutes for intellectual honesty in the PC world of academics (and media).

  • Forest Hazel Nov 6, 2015
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    Sadly, it will be no surprise when we find out he wrote it himself. But you'll never hear the story on WRAL. It will die a quiet, lonely death, like the story of the noose that was hung at Duke where we never hear the outcome. In that case, the person involved was almost certainly Black; hence the silence on the part of the administration. In this case, I'd say the chances are pretty good he or one of his affiliates did this just to garner sympathy. In any case, I hope they identify the culprit, and deal with him/her/them quickly and severely.

  • Gerald Josephson Nov 6, 2015
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    I wonder if this is going to turn into another story where someone in the target group did it to "raise awareness".

  • Jarfaris Brown Nov 6, 2015
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    I don't think this could be considered a death threat by anyone other than the list of the offended.

  • David Collins Nov 6, 2015
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    I'm going to set my alarm clock 10 minutes earlier, so I can lose a little sleep over this issue. I guess I need therapy now because I read a dirty limerick in an outhouse once.....

  • Jeff Given Nov 6, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    The picture of the graffiti includes the words "Death to" very little in the real world is seeing death threats carved into near by walls. Grow up.

  • Mike Morin Nov 6, 2015
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    Probably done by the same student who hung the noose earlier this year. The one whose race and gender was not released by the cowards at Duke.

  • Anne Havisham Nov 6, 2015
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    Mr. Godwin, your comment leads me to believe that you wouldn't find such a threat troublesome. Since your self-protective instincts are not operating very well, please take my advice. Mr. Godwin. if your home or workplace ever has threats against you scrawled on it, either with or without a prejudicial comment attached, please call the authorities.

    Even though you and I disagree, I believe you deserve to be safe.

  • Buck Godwin Nov 6, 2015
    user avatar

    forgot to ask, why is this newsworthy????