In wake of Missouri, Duke and UNC face tough questions on race relations

UNC students rally Friday to support students at the U. of Missouri. (WNCN)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Concerns and questions about race relations, which exploded on the campus of the University of Missouri earlier this week, continued Friday on campuses in North Carolina with a rally at UNC and an emotional set of conversation at Duke University.

Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill rallied Friday in front of South Building in a show of support for students at Missouri.

One of the organizers said about 200 people were at the rally.

Chancellor Carol Folt attended the rally. She told WNCN it’s important to listen to students and that change is always needed.

The UNC student body is predominantly white. According to UNC figures, nine percent of the freshmen who entered in 2015 were black and 71 percent were white.

At Duke University on Friday, President Richard Brodhead convened a “campus conversation” about recent events, and a packed house showed up Friday at noon at Page Auditorium. Also leading the conversation where Provost Sally Kornbluth and Dean Valerie Ashby.

The forum began just a few hours after the words “Black Lives Matter” was spray painted on the James B. Duke statue outside Duke Chapel, Duke University’s The Chronicle reported.

The student newspaper also reported that in April the same statue had a sign placed on it that read “Duke stands on the backs of black and brown labor.”

The event at Duke was so packed about 50 students could not get in. The conversation was emotional and tense at times, with some asking hard questions of university leaders.

One student, speaking through tears, said, “I don’t feel safe here, I don’t feel like I belong here and if you look around the room and look for the Asian-Americans here who stand for social justice, there aren’t that many.”

One student questioned how professor Jerry Hough could be allowed to resume teaching after controversial comments he made on The New York Times website. Hough has taught at Duke since 1973 and was on leave when he made the comments on May 9. Hough wrote, “Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration. The amount of Asian-white dating is enormous and so surely will be the intermarriage. Black-white dating is almost non-existent because of the ostracism by blacks of anyone who dates a white.”

Hough later defended his comments in an email with WNCN.

Another issue that came on Friday was about a Duke student who hung a noose on campus last semester. Brodhead defended the school’s decision to ally him to remain a student.

“You can disagree about this and you can say this shows the university does not act in good faith but I would look at you and say the dates you are accused of something and are brought up on a disciplinary matter, you don’t want this university to punish you on the basis of the passions of the community,” Brodhead said.

Duke enrolled 1,758 freshmen this year and 11 percent of the current freshmen are black.

Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri system, resigned Monday after pressure on campus over race-related issues. Missouri chancellor Bowel Loftin also resigned.

East Carolina plans to hold a rally Sunday on campus as well.

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