NC State administrators under fire after students' racist messages

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NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson is under fire for his response to a series of racist remarks made by a handful of students on a school online chat room. (WTVD)

NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson is under fire for his response to a series of racist remarks made by a handful of students on a school online chat room.

The comments started after a die-in on NCSU's campus, protesting the police shooting of a black man in Charlotte.

"Comments saying we don't want our school to burn down and very stereotypical remarks against African-American students," explained freshman Simone Wilder.

One comment by a white student said he wouldn't feel comfortable at the die-in without a gun. Another referred to the "monkeys" being "let out."

"I was taken aback by it," said Wilder, "because here we are trying to be peaceful and then you were saying you only feel comfortable being around this group of African Americans with a gun. So that just spoke to how the myth of inherent black criminality has really messed up the views of Caucasians toward African Americans. The type that divide us rather than bring us together because of fear."

"For the black community," Wilder continued, "it's a roller coaster of emotions. Anguish, sadness, not being heard, not being valued in an institution that we do pay tuition for. So in these last few days there been a lot of tears; I've personally cried over this. Honestly, the bubble has burst. Before coming here, I didn't really experience blatant racism like that."


But NC State Senior Jalen Feaster, who first posted the racist comments on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, said racism at the University is nothing new.

"Since I've been a senior, we've almost had one event per semester, if not more," said Feaster. "Someone saying something radical, someone putting something in the freedom of expression tunnel, people painting certain things or saying derogatory statements."

"I think it's a huge deal," Feaster continued. "NC State prides itself on being a champion of diversity and making sure everyone feels welcome to work and study here, which sounds great but at the same time we see things like this. And our Chancellor responds in a very tele-practic matter saying 'hey we can't really do anything about it.' I question the strength behind such a statement."

Students like Feaster and Wilder say they're turning their attention away up from the comments and toward the University's administration.

"Right now were trying to shift the conversation away from the individuals because, honestly, they're just a symptom of the problem," said Wilder. "It's time for the administration to step up and really take those kind of conversations seriously or sweep them under the rug of the 1st Amendment. There should be a line between free speech speech."

NC State doesn't have a policy in place to punish or act on hate speech and racist behavior. Wilder wants that to change.

"There's not a consistent punishment against this kind of remark. Cultural competency is what I'm thinking; being able to interact with people of different cultures and not use racist remarks. There needs to be policy put in place against this type of speech because at the end of the day it's hurtful ignore it, and it should take place at NC State."

The sentiments of Wilder and Feaster were echoed repeatedly in a town hall style meeting on campus where hundreds of students gathered and more than a dozen voiced strong opinions on the racist uproar.

One student called the administration's focus on a legal threshold and the 1st Amendment "Subterfuge for what's really happening here." That same student, addressing Chancellor Woodson in the crowd said, "His weapon of choice, while you can't confiscate it, has caused harm."

Another said, "I feel betrayed by the school. Knowing what can happen to you in the professional world, why is it OK for two students to put up two paragraphs?"

A third asked, "Did the school's response protect the University's reputation or the students?" She told the crowd the school's response let behavior that "translates into micro-aggressions" off the hook.

A fourth observed that the African-American person at the center of the controversy, a freshman on campus, was introduced to racism at NC State as a fifth noted that some faculty are complicit in making racist remarks.

Another noted that, "as an able bodied black man, I'm not afraid, but I don't feel comfortable here."

Chancellor Randy Woodson offered students at the Town Hall forum a four minute-response which students roundly panned.

WATCH: Raw interview with Chancellor Randy Woodson
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Jon Camp's raw interview with NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson

The comment following Woodson's remarks took him to task for his focus on the law.

Another asked why the school wouldn't require the students who wrote the racist comments to go to diversity training. "If you can't make the changes," another student asked, "don't say there's diversity and inclusion in your promotional materials."

One student, nearly in tears, looked at Woodson and asked why he wasn't looking at students as they were talking about their experiences (something ABC11 reporter Jon Camp noted as well). "There was a racial harassment policy here," she said, "but it was repealed and I don't understand why. I pay $25,000 to go here to feel unsafe, unwelcome, and white students feel it's necessary to bring a gun around me at a peaceful protest. You're not acknowledging our hurt as black students. So acknowledge that because I am outraged."

Another student remarked that she could "barely go to class. I feel powerless. I feel suppressed. Now I don't know if this is the university for me."

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