Student Government Response to Hate Speech in Free Expression Tunnel

Jay Dawkins recalls campus response to hate speech written in the Free Expression Tunnel after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

Interview on 2014-05-21


00:00:00.000 I think the first time there was vandalism-this was before the election-
00:00:03.674 it wasn't as severe as after Obama was elected but it was enough to cause student leaders to be upset about it,
00:00:10.876 and we actually built this coalition of a lot of the campus organizational leaders coming together to one big kind of roundtable.
00:00:18.727 The chancellor's Roundtable, I think was the name of the meeting series, where this kind of came to a head.
00:00:27.135 I think the light bulb went off at some point in that meeting where it was: why are we demanding that the university do something about this,
00:00:34.634 when anything they do is going to be less effective, top-down, kind of very formal, than what we can do as a collective entity as students,
00:00:42.332 seeing the power in that thought. I think in that meeting was like the "aha" moment,
00:00:49.879 and because of that we got all these leaders together and created a statement of the things we believed as student leaders, that all people are welcome here, regardless of your race, your creed, you name it.
00:00:59.288 You are a member of this family and you deserve to have a great place to live and learn.
00:01:05.492 The moment that that really, I think, had power was when the bigger graffiti happened where it became essentially national news
00:01:15.588 and it was just this very, very painful thing for the campus.
00:01:20.960 I remember I was actually sitting at work when I found out about it, because I was doing a co-op that semester,
00:01:28.103 and I can't remember if it was Philip Christofferson or somebody else who said, "Hey, man. Somebody wrote some really bad stuff in the tunnel. What should we do?"
00:01:38.232 And I just said, "Well, I don't know. I guess just print out that agreement."
00:01:44.042 So there's a statement that says that we believe that NC State is an open, accepting, loving place and this is not who we are,
00:01:51.140 and it was not referencing the exact statements of that day but it was ready and it was relevant and it was on the wall.
00:01:56.959 So I immediately left work and came down and by the time I got there the signs had been up for maybe thirty minutes or an hour,
00:02:04.404 [Speaks with emotion] and I just remember the most powerful moment of my entire student leader experience was watching people sign onto that.