Education

N.C. State's Free Expression Tunnel painted with racist, sexual slurs

Posted November 3, 2010 12:16 p.m. EDT
Updated November 4, 2010 5:43 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina State University's Free Expression Tunnel was spray-painted earlier this week with racist and homophobic graffiti involving President Barack Obama, according to Chancellor Randy Woodson.

The slurs and the name "Obama" were painted over the picture of a black man. Woodson described the graffiti as "racially charged obscenities and derogatory comments directed to the GLBT (gay lesbian bisexual transgender) community."

N.C. State students are allowed to spray paint the Free Expression Tunnel with images and words commenting on any issue. Woodson decried the use of the tunnel for derogatory speech.

"(The tunnel) is the embodiment of free speech, a place where we can air our thoughts openly," Woodson said in a statement posted on N.C. State's website Tuesday.

"But here's the reality: The Free Expression Tunnel is us. What we say and do there says as much about us," he continued. "The question for us all is are we going to practice the politics of hate and destruction, or are we going to be a force for respectful dialog even where there are differences of opinion?"

Some N.C. State students planned to protest the graffiti later Wednesday.

The graffiti has been painted over. There's no word on who might be responsible for it.

"It is an iffy situation because we don't know what to do, but as an African-American here, it just makes me feel ashamed of going (here), even being a member of the Wolfpack," N.C. State senior Kateria Poe said.

Racially charged graffiti threatening violence against Obama was spray painted in the tunnel the night he was elected in November in 2008. The incident prompted the University of North Carolina System to adopt a policy prohibiting actions defined by federal and state laws as hate crimes.