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Racial slur scrawled on Center for Black Culture at Duke University

A controversy erupted at Duke University over an email that advised Chinese students to avoid speaking their native language at a campus building.
A controversy erupted at Duke University over an email that advised Chinese students to avoid speaking their native language at a campus building. N&O file photo

Duke University officials are investigating an incident involving a “heinous racial epithet” written on a sign for the university’s Center for Black Culture.

Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld described the racial slur as the N-word and said it was discovered Saturday scrawled on a sign on the Flowers Building on West Campus. It was written in pen in 1-inch tall letters; the vandalized sign has been covered and will be repainted, he said.

Students were notified in an email from university president Vincent Price, who described the slur as a “heinous racial epithet.”

“Such a cowardly and hateful act has absolutely no place in our community,” Price wrote. “While we can’t undo or unsee this painful assault on our right to live and study in a civil and respectful environment, we can and do promise that odious acts like this will be acknowledged and challenged at every opportunity, especially at a time when some seek deliberately to provoke hatred and distrust.”

“I regret that my early words to you in this new semester are marked with sadness and anger,” Price wrote. “Let us use this moment to come together in support of our fellow students, faculty or staff who are so maligned; let us not allow provocateurs to sow among us discord or malice; let us reaffirm and act upon our commitments to inclusion, tolerance and respect.”

According to Duke’s web site, “Established in 1983, The Center remains a safe, welcoming and supportive space that reflects the core values, culture, mission and perspectives of Duke’s Black community.”

Duke’s campus in Durham periodically flares up over race-related controversies. Earlier this month, longtime Duke administrator Larry Moneta announced his retirement after sparking controversy over his complaint about a rap song playing in a campus coffee shop. The song, Young Dolph’s “Get Paid,” includes the N-word and curse words.

Moneta’ s complaint resulted in the firing of two baristas at the campus coffee shop. Moneta, who had been Duke’s vice president of student affairs since 2001, will retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

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