Local News

Duke students: Slurs sadly no surprise

Posted November 6, 2015 6:09 a.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2015 3:40 p.m. EST

— 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.