Phi Beta Cons

Hiding a Hate Hoax?

A campus lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender center is defaced with hateful messages, with no witnesses — right around the time the state legislature introduces a bill banning gay marriage. Headlines scream, university administrators wax indignant, and rallies are held to decry the anti-gay bigotry that surely was behind the incident. Despite supposed leads that point to a hate crime, the campus police make no arrests.

The only logical reaction to such a series of events — which happened this October at North Carolina State University — is to roll one’s eyes and hold one’s nose (from “smelling a rat”). After all, it fits the template for university hate-crime hoaxes, of which there have been dozens over the last couple of decades (here and here).

When I attended Richard Stockton College back in 2000 or 2001, the president of the gay-lesbian club trashed her own dorm room and car with anti-gay graffiti. Before her arrest, much of the faculty signed a petition decrying the anti-gay bigotry that pervaded the campus, and it was widely publicized. Even after the harassment was revealed to be a hoax, the Stockton administration’s response was that increased vigilance against anti-gay bias was still needed, since the incident showed that such hate crimes could happen!

So I didn’t buy the headlines about NC State’s LGBT center. I called the campus police, and I was told that they had not even considered the possibility of a hoax, that some serious leads that suggested the crime was not a hoax, and that there was nothing to suggest it was a hoax (a colleague at the Pope Center, however, suggested that the vandals’ use of purple paint was a dead giveaway).

The event eventually disappeared from the local news, apparently without resolution. A week or so ago, I called back to find out whether they had ever found the perpetrators. I was told that the initial leads had not panned out, and the case, while still unsolved, was pretty much considered inactive.

So I’m just wondering if it is fair to raise the question of whether the campus police knowingly avoided solving this case. It would have been embarrassing for the school to admit the hoax after all the official breast-beating about hate crimes. It seems to be a likely scenario for some undue collusion, but I’m a little hesitant to “go there.”

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