Black students vent frustrations at NCSU town hall

Joel Brown Image
Friday, September 30, 2016
Emotional town hall at NCSU after racial messages revealed
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Raw emotions and heartfelt opinions about race relations were on display at NCSU.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The town hall discussion was at points raucous.

One after another, African-American students told fellow students at NC State and university administrators that they feel like outsiders at the school. And that they feel the university is refusing to protect them.

The event was slated to be a town hall on campus diversity. It turned into a town hall scolding for university Chancellor Randy Woodson.

"So acknowledge our hurt as black students, because, I am over it!" one student said loudly to the hall. Her comment was met with cheers.

One day after Woodson posted a 2-minute online video admonishing a small group of white students for their semi-private online chat room and its slew of offensive and racist posts, the black student body soundly told Woodson to his face that he didn't go nearly far enough.

"What is always legal is not always moral," said one student.

"Something needs to be done, now. (The university) can say there's no law. Well, make a law. You have that power as the Chancellor," a student insisted.

Toward the back of the auditorium, Matt Smith took the mic to speak. The freshman said he's one of the members of the online group.

"We are not an overtly racist group," Smith said to loud jeers from the crowd. "I cannot speak for all the individuals in the group. But as a whole, we are not a racist group."


Afterwards, Chancellor Woodson contended that the university has policies against hate speech, but not free speech. And, while the comments made online are offensive, they were not threatening.

Woodson said disciplining the students who made the racist posts would violate their First-Amendment rights.


"Any racial or bigoted comments are hurtful to our campus," Woodson said. "I've said this repeatedly, our code of conduct does not allow us (to punish them)."

For many leaving the town hall, that was a bitter pill to swallow.

"I feel less included on campus," said NC State freshman Jeremy Nortey. "I'm angrier than I was before I stepped in there."

When it comes to hate speech on campus, the ACLU and Woodson are in agreement.

The organization maintains that the First Amendment protects speech, no matter how offensive. And "speech codes" at government-financed universities, such as NC State, would be a violation of the Constitution.

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