This story was written by Saja Hindi, Technician
Four North Carolina State Universitystudents admitted responsibility for writing the racist statements in the Free Expression Tunnel against President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday -- an incident that incurred an investigation from Campus Police and the Secret Service.
"When we investigated it from a validation of the threat, the individuals were expressing their personal opinions and biases with no intention of a threat ... With the Secret Service, it was determined that no criminal act had taken place," Capt. Jon Barnwell of Campus Police said.
Secret Service Resident Agent in charge of the Raleigh Office Robert Trumbo said he couldn't comment on what the means or methods are of validating threats.
"Our job is to look into those that could be perceived [as threats], some of them may not rise to a criminal nature," he said. "By the same token, our job is to address those that could be on the cusp as well as on the line ... There's a lot more that goes into it than what's on the surface."
All University officials were referring questions to News Services Wednesday for any information on the incident.
But on Thursday, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Tom Stafford said he found out about the incident when Associate Vice Chancellor for Environmental Health and Public Safety David Rainer alerted him of the incident early Wednesday.
"The official response [of asking Facilities to paint over the statements in the tunnel] was made by Charlie and myself," Stafford said.
Jack Colby, assistant vice chancellor for Facilities Operations, said painting over the tunnel is not a general practice for Facilities.
"In general, we do not make the ultimate decision on that," Colby said. "Folks allow Student Affairs and campus security to make the call. We respond to that and take care of covering up the sensitive material."
Stafford said some concern has been expressed that the University needs to make clear exactly what the students wrote on the tunnel before it was painted over.
"People's response to this would be quite different if they knew what was done and what was said," Stafford said.
And Chancellor James Oblinger said when he found out, he knew that Facilities needed to paint the tunnel and that the University needed to release a statement, which News Services posted on the University Web site and sent out to list-servs, including parent list-servs.
"There was no question in my mind as chancellor of the University or as an individual that what was written there was well beyond what is free speech," Oblinger said.
And Stafford said the University will continue to promote dialogue.
"It's my understanding that [Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion] Jose [Picart] said something to the audience about having dialogue in the next couple of weeks," Stafford said.
Adam Compton, senior class president, said he was disappointed in the incident.
"Part of me wants to say yes [I was surprised], but another part of me says it's really not a surprise," he said. "There were a lot of people that were very emotionally involved in this campaign and there seems to be a growing trend of these kind of actions on our campus."
However, for Compton, a rally is not the perfect solution to the problem.
"I feel like this campus needs something more than just a rally," he said. "It needs some forum or some way for students to come together and discuss this. Being a facility based around education, that should be the first and foremost mission of the University to go out and work on ways to break these stereotypes."
Compton said fter the noose incident last year, the University said it would work with student leaders to develop a hate crime or hate speech policy but has not done so as of yet.
"Too oftentimes, it seems like the University takes a reactive approach," Compton said. "I believe the University needs to set up a proactive approach."