Local News

Panel: UNC system needs hate-crimes policy

Posted March 10, 2009 4:51 p.m. EDT
Updated March 10, 2009 7:19 p.m. EDT

— The University of North Carolina system should adopt a policy for handling hate crimes on the system's 16 campuses, a UNC panel said Tuesday.

The UNC Study Commission to Review Student Codes of Conduct as They Relate to Hate Crimes said the uniform code of conduct should prohibit actions defined by federal and state laws as hate crimes.

"At this moment, (there) is not consistent language in all of the campuses' codes of conduct," Commission Chairman Harold Martin said.

Still, commission members said they prefer the policy doesn't include the term "hate crime." They also adopted a recommendation supporting free speech on campus.

"This has not been a discussion about trying to legislate freedom of speech," Martin said.

The commission will turn over its final recommendations to UNC President Erskine Bowles by the end of the month. UNC administrators will then craft a policy to present to the system's Board of Governors for approval.

Some UNC-Chapel Hill students said they agreed with the panel's conclusions.

"Where to draw the line is kind of hard, but I think we should go off the state and local laws, whichever ones would apply," junior Taylor Deton said.

"If it's already on the books for federal and state laws, it just makes sense to have it on the local level or university level," said M.P. Davis, a prospective student at the UNC School of Law.

Bowles created the commission after four North Carolina State University students spray-painted racist graffiti in the campus' Free Expression Tunnel on the night President Barack Obama was elected.

The state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for the students to be expelled, but N.C. State officials said they had no grounds to do that.

Martin said the proposed policy wouldn't have affected how N.C. State handled the racist graffiti, adding that he thought the university handled it appropriately.

NAACP officials said it was too early to comment on a possible policy. The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed a hate crimes policy on free-speech grounds, also declined to comment.

The commission will ask Bowles to appoint a separate task force to study whether all new students in the UNC system should be required to undergo diversity training.