Commentaries
Prank at UNC-Chapel Hill leads to calls for homosexual student center

Originates in a fake DTH advertisement

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September 28, 2001

On Monday someone used the Campus Calendar section of The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to place a fake announcement of a gay pride rally later in the week. The announcement listed the phone number of another student as a contact person for anyone interested in the rally. Obviously a prank on the unsuspecting student listed as the contact person, the announcement set into motion a chain of events:

• Campus lesbian esbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists decided to hold the event as advertised despite its origin. They told the DTH that the fact that it was used to insult the hapless "contact" was "just a further example of the underlying homophobia" on campus.

• They also requested police escort for the rally, out of the fear that "someone was looking to get a group of queer students at the same place at the same time to do something."

• All of fifteen students showed up, although Student Body President Justin Young said he represented all the students too afraid to show up.

• The police escort left within minutes of their arrival, having determined there was no threat to the 15. Sans escort, marchers were accosted with, in the words of one participant, "insulted and patronized looks" from some people, folks who refused to stay on the sidewalk as the marchers approached, and an alleged drive-by shooting from a toy squirt gun.

• Afterwards the editors of the DTH bemoaned the "hostile environment for gay students on campus" created by the " deep down ... hateful and ignorant" ad. They further bemoaned the "unfortunate reality ... that this group of students had to enlist the aid of campus police because they felt threatened on their own campus."

• The week's events therefore signified "direct support of the demand for a LGBT resource center" on campus, the editors wrote. They suggested that if the campus already had such a center, it might have prevented the prank, but until there is one, "every student at UNC should consider the consequences of this action and make a conscious effort not to laugh."

In other news ...

The College of Design at North Carolina State University has chosen a professional firm to design its web site. Web design is one of the aspects of design taught by the college, and in fact, the first three designs of the college's web site were done by College of Design students and faculty. Those designs only "partially satisfied" the college's needs for its web site, said Dean Marvin Malecha. Malecha said the web site, www.design.ncsu.edu, is a very important recruiting tool for the college.

Malecha cited several reasons for the decision: the heavy courseloads placed on students (design students are counseled against extracurricular activities), the heavy teaching loads on faculty (the college prides itself on having full professors teaching its classes), and that the college regularly engages outside professionals to assist in teaching and other forms of contact with students.

Students will be involved in the site's development, Malecha said. He also said the college uses students for designing the its annual reports and information CD's for middle-school students, which he said are projects they can do during the summer. The college is expected to be at an "advanced edge" of output, Malecha said, which the web site should reflect, especially in the face of the increased tuition. About 17 percent of the college's undergraduates are out-of-state or international students, Malecha said, as are an even higher percentage of the college's graduate students.

Burney Design, headed by a College of Design alumnus, David Burney, who also taught part-time at the college, won the contract. Burney's bid of $30,000 was well below what Malecha said was a $150,000 project and was one of the lowest among the 25 bidders.

 


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