Elizabeth Esser talks to Dr. Amy Orders, NC State University’s Director of Emergency Management and Mission Continuity, about the return to in-person classes in the fall.
Elizabeth Esser talks to Dr. Amy Orders, NC State University’s Director of Emergency Management and Mission Continuity, about the return to in-person classes in the fall. Then, Eoin Trainor and Laura Mooney report on the controversy surrounding Chadwick Seagraves, a university employee accused of being a member of the Proud Boys.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE
Provided by Otter.ai
Eoin Trainor 0:00
The views and opinions expressed in Eye on the Triangle do not represent WKNC or the student media.
Good evening Raleigh and welcome to this week’s Eye on the Triangle an NC State student run and student produced news show on WKNC 88.1. I’m Eoin Trainor. On tonight’s episode Elizabeth Esser is talking about NC State’s return to in person classes this fall with Dr. Amy Orders the director of emergency management and mission continuity at the university. Afterwards, Laura Mooney and I report on the controversy surrounding Chadwick Seagraves, an NC State employee who was accused of being a member of the proud boys, stay tuned.
Elizabeth Esser 0:45
This is Elizabeth Esser reporting for Eye on the Triangle. Joining us today is Dr. Amy Orders director of emergency management and mission continuity here at NC State to discuss the university’s plann to return to in person classes this fall. Thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. orders.
Dr. Amy Orders 1:01
Thank you for having me, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to tell about great new changes on the horizon.
Elizabeth Esser 1:07
To start us off, can you just tell listeners a bit about yourself and your position at NC State?
Dr. Amy Orders 1:12
I have hit my 20th year at NC State. But my my position has evolved over the years within environmental health and public safety. And within COVID, it really took on a new a new face and a new paradigm of operation centric work was very important to move us forward in all the different phases. So our job has been to be responsive to the needs of the campus over the past year.
Elizabeth Esser 1:35
How did the university come to the decision to return to in person class.
Dr. Amy Orders 1:41
It was kind of an evolving conversation. We’ve been watching the public health information and changes in the CDC or recommendations from other public health entities for several months. And the whole idea is we knew we would return to normal and I have to use normal with air quotes at some point we were hopeful it would be sooner than not. So trending the virus itself that community transmission, the prevalence of vaccine and its distribution models, people, you know, following community standards, both outside of campus and in campus, all of that helped make a better informed decision on what was safe and appropriate to the idea of a normal fall really is a cascade effect over a couple of months. It requires us to go back and challenge what our safety practices are now what our community standards need to be what we need to do for changes in classrooms or physical spaces to invite people back to their offices or research environments or other areas. But all of that has to be mindful of the virus itself, we have to watch what happens in the public health sector. If we experience another wave of the virus and infections, then we need to be moderating in our decision making and pace appropriately. We’re really hopeful though that normal fall can really mean back in the classrooms 100% or in a large capacity. Looking at our research operations, we’ve fully activated and then restoring our other campus special events, clinics, all of the above. So we are anticipating a normal start keeping that caveat in mind that if something changes, we pause
Elizabeth Esser 3:14
So when we started with in person classes last fall seats were spread out. Teachers had plexiglass screens in front of them while they lectured. As of right now, what can we expect in person classes to look like in comparison to in person classes prior to COVID.
Dr. Amy Orders 3:30
Some of the recommendations that are coming out slowly but steadily from the Centers of Disease Control really do tell us what the expectations are how to minimize exposure, maximize the experience. So one of the greatest examples that we’re watching is public schools, you’re seeing the decrease in the spacing. So we were at six feet physical distancing. And now the paradigm shifting to about three feet. When we in our classroom setting some of our classrooms may not be appropriate for different reasons. It could be ventilation, it could be the spacing, whatever that is, we’ll continue to assess that even as recommendations come in and say hey, you can be closer together. In the fall though it was such an extreme situation, we were looking at every possible safety mechanism that layers into effect is the Swiss cheese model. If you can give Plexiglas and maximize distance and decrease the occupancy, then we minimize transmission in those facilities, what happens outside and you bring the virus in there, that’s still a problem. Well, now that the virus load or the number of positive cases is going down, we can start removing layer by layer not all layers to be able to increase that experience as close to what we used to or we’re accustomed to, in like the 2019 timeframe. So university will still look at these things very, very, very detailed and specifically such as plexiglass, like you mentioned, if a faculty member has some sort of experiential learning or in face obligation with a larger crowd. Maybe that Plexiglas is still appropriate because when you Talk, you actually spit, the aerosol is a concern. So we need to think about these things creatively and not assume that we take everything away because that may not be the situation.
Elizabeth Esser 5:10
Residence halls will also return to full occupancy. Will any extra precautions be put into place there?
Dr. Amy Orders 5:16
there are some standing precautions that we will maintain for sure. So, in our residence halls, single occupancy moving that back to regular double occupancy is is the goal. And still having a process for an exception as we have cases that are necessary to address but the heightened cleaning, having people understand what cleaning in their own personal space means. Understanding what it what the virus itself will exist in the background, how to protect yourself and be more effective and those measures will continue. The other part of it in the residence halls and across campus is messaging. We won’t just take down everything that says you know, cover your face, wear your mask, it has to be a blend, a reminder, if it’s cold and flu season, we tell people cover your cough and wash your hands. Let’s do cold flu plus COVID because it will still exist. So still cover your cough wash your hands. It applies at home and the residence hall settings, it’s going to be the same type of approach
Elizabeth Esser 6:14
Does the university as of right now have plans for if there are major spikes in cases?
Dr. Amy Orders 6:20
We keep that as a on the front burner conversation every day, our plans won’t go away. So we will decrease the number of quarantine and isolation spaces in the fall. mindful though that at any point in time, if we have to increase those, again, we will so we have provisions in place kind of in a tiered process. If we have to go back and analyze what the best spacing policies are. We’re hopeful that if everyone understands what the community expectations are, then we won’t see those spikes we will go and have our social gatherings we may still have limitations on those gatherings. That’s kind of a crystal ball that we don’t have right now. But if we’re able to look at those in a very methodical manner and make some plan decisions, then if we do have a spike we’re ready to address.
Elizabeth Esser 7:03
Finally, is there anything else that you would like for listeners to know about NC State’s return to normal this fall?
Dr. Amy Orders 7:09
I think there are two things that I’m going to add one is as some level of surveillance testing is going to have to continue. You know, it’s going to be that COVID becomes endemic to society. At some point, it still exists, it’s in the fabric. So it’s just like seasonal flu it comes and goes. Our testing strategy may not be as pervasive as it is now. But some level of testing is still appropriate to make sure you’re not missing some level of information that can better inform our decisions. The other thing is the vaccination process. It’s starting to open up stores so widely, the opportunity to get the vaccine is making itself very much available to everybody. So in the next week or so you’ll see the next group open, where we can actually invite the close to the 15,000 people who have pre registered for vaccination on campus into the vaccine clinic. Having that vaccination makes a world of difference because increasing the immunity across the board, we reach the closer to a herd immunity status that helps us get back to being able to gather and be in other places in a more social circumstance. I think between the two, because we’re really cautious about how we’re setting up campus physically, how we’re telling people in our training, what to expect, setting the right expectations. It helps us also engage the individual and say some of this is on you. Get your vaccine or if not at your discretion. GO participate in testing, we would like to have that data help us meet in the middle. That will get us back to normal in the fall.
Elizabeth Esser 8:37
Well, thank you so much again for joining us today. Dr. Orders. Awesome.
Dr. Amy Orders 8:41
Thanks so much.
Eoin Trainor 8:43
NC State University became embroiled in controversy this winter when some students began to question its commitment to inclusion and diversity. This came on January 11, when NC State announced that they would not take disciplinary action against Chadwick Seagraves, a university employee accused of being a member of the far right extremist group the Proud Boys. The allegations emerged last November when the anonymous comrades collective an anonymous left wing organization released a blog post and Twitter thread detailing Seagraves connections the group, the thread claims that he posted students and activists personal information online. It also includes photos from a 2017 anti Islam rally in Chapel Hill. These claim to show Seagraves pictured with Augustus Solinvictus, a prominent white supremacist who headlined the unite the right rally in Charlottesville that same year. Seagraves vehemently denies the allegations in a statement he said to paint me as a racist and fascist is heinous slander. NC State made its decision to not take action against Seagraves following a two month investigation into his conduct. In a statement, the University said the rigorous review did not substantiate any significant allegations. Following this announcement, student body president Melanie flowers signed an executive order designating January 19 as a day to protest the decision. I recently sat down with President flowers to discuss this, our interview details student government’s perspective on the issue and offers a reflection on one of the semesters most controversial moments. For Eye on the Triangle I’m Eoin Trainor.
First question, what was your and student government’s initial reaction to NC State’s decision to not take any action against Seagraves?
Melanie Flowers 10:26
It was a few things. There was obviously a lot of disappointment at the results of the investigation. It’s, it’s frustrating, because I know, when all the information came out, at least for me, I was really nervous that there wouldn’t be any actions that the university would be able to legally take with the investigation. And so that was really concerning for me seeing as the groups that the OIT employees affiliated with, I think it or I know it continues to spread and just perpetuate a culture of white supremacy on our campus. And that’s, that’s really nerve wracking, and unsettling, and, and more. And so it sucks, it more than sucks to, to know the university couldn’t do anything about it. And it puts student government and myself and others in a place to think about what steps can we take to ensure that the people that the university employees are champions of diversity and inclusion and equity, like the university is trying to be?
Eoin Trainor 11:38
In your view, was NC State transparent during the actual investigation? Did they ask for your input at all?
Melanie Flowers 11:45
So I forwarded on information after it started to surface on social media. I wasn’t asked for input. But legally, I don’t have any role to play in the investigation. So that wasn’t something that I would have really needed to be a part of anyways. Um, I think transparency is kind of a difficult topic, because I have I have the perspective of somebody who has the knowledge to know what legally can be put out for these kinds of cases and what can’t be and like this is it’s really an HR case. And I think students are definitely just very apprehensive in trusting the process and the University and I am too, because you just, you you see the results. And you see that Seagraves just continues to be employed here. And you wonder, like, what happened? And, and I get that, and I think that’s why the transparency pieces, although legally, it was correct, I think I understand the frustration of what felt like crumbs of information the university was able to share.
Eoin Trainor 13:04
Um, you signed an executive order creating a time and place for protests against the results of the investigation. What led you and student government to come up with this decision? Did you consider any alternatives?
Melanie Flowers 13:18
This was one of the things that came out of my understanding of the fact that the university couldn’t do anything legally. Student Government has a, a privilege and a power to use our voice in the way that our university as a public institution can’t. And I didn’t want to let that go to waste in student government. It’s our job to represent students and voice their opinions and concerns in a way that’s heard. And so this was our way of making sure that students knew that we were fighting for them. And we’re feeling all of these things alongside them as well. And so this was this idea was really the idea. We didn’t really consider other options it. It came about before the first day of classes, and it came about in about a week less than
Eoin Trainor 14:13
can you tell us about how the protests went. What was your overall impression of what the students who were there were saying and what concerns they were expressing?
Jaylan Harrington 14:23
So it was interesting, because we had to essentially publish the executive order in the protest, and the notification of the protests before students were back on campus. And even though students are back, we’re not all here. So we kind of had a completely virtual launch of the protest. And there was a lot of online engagement across social media. And so we definitely felt like we had this student support. In person. We had a couple of dozen students attend and then we also had about 10 people for the virtual option which was awesome to see. attendees were thankful the ones that I interacted with, were thankful that we were saying something. And just making them feel like they weren’t alone. I heard a lot of that because I think sometimes or not sometimes for a lot of students, you get this notification and you’re alone in your residence hall. And you you just wonder, like, Is anybody else feeling disappointed? Or is anybody else feeling scared? Or is anybody else angry or mad at this? And I think, actually speaking out provided that affirmation for a lot of students,
Eoin Trainor 15:32
And your perception of how the general student body feels, is that any different or do you think it’s fairly similar to the opinions expressed the protest?
Jaylan Harrington 15:40
I’d like to think it’s fairly fairly similar. I know there are definitely individuals who who question if it’s student government’s place to to protest at all, and there are definitely varying opinions about how we approached the situation. But from what I’ve heard, what I’ve seen, the the outcry about Seagraves, when you know, these accusations initially surface back in November, and how that continued over winter break, there’s definitely a a larger message and group just just wanting to make sure that NC State is the place that we say we are. And so I think that’s definitely the overwhelming the overwhelming opinion, it’s just, we’ve got to do better and right now Seagraves continuing at the university isn’t the university doing better,
Eoin Trainor 16:25
Right, student government is planning on sending Seagraves one letter a day until he resigns. What does this been like so far? Has he responded? at all?
Jaylan Harrington 16:37
I haven’t gotten any responses to the office and we’re sending them to the on campus office, I don’t have his home address. My my guess is that they could be getting forwarded to his home address or they’re there until or when he gets to the office. So yeah, that’s, that’s up in the air. I’m hoping to get a response.
Eoin Trainor 17:00
And then even though NC State basically can’t take any action, now the investigation is over. Do you think they should do anything else beyond the statements they’ve released to address the concern that they’re not completely committed to equity and diversity?
Melanie Flowers 17:16
Yeah, and I think some steps that we are taking, slowly, but surely, as I sit on several search committees, and what’s starting to get added to job descriptions at the university is being a champion for the diverse populations that we serve. And it might not be those words exactly. But there are definitely statements and required qualities that are being implemented into all of these positions. It’s not just the chief diversity officer who you have to have that competency. It’s, it’s a random engineer, it’s a random instructor that needs to have that understanding. And so I think that’s one of the ways that we’re moving in the right direction to just make sure that objectively, when we ask anybody who’s entering the university, what they’re going to bring, we hope that inclusion and equity and a champion for everyone is a part of the qualities they’re bringing to the university.
Eoin Trainor 18:08
Given the controversy of the situation, has Student Government received any negative responses since the feedback? Have you received any threatening statements to either you or any of the protesters?
Melanie Flowers 18:21
Yes. So as I said, I know there are opinions that disagreed with our, our strategy on addressing the situation. There are some comments on our Instagram page asking about you know, is this cancel culture is it SG’s place to protest etc. And I think To that end, the University has done, I mean, as good as a job as it can to offer opportunities to educate yourself on diverse communities at NC State and really just in the world, and in North Carolina, and especially over the summer, those resources were shared very abundantly and pass that OIED offers DEI related trainings for for a lot of different communities. And I think there’s just too much opportunity to learn, especially this year for this to be considered cancel culture. We, we know that white supremacy is a, a toxin to our community. And that’s, that’s not physics. So I feel as though there have been clear standards for what the university expects from its community members and those aren’t met from what what I feel to be true about his actions and affiliations.
Eoin Trainor 19:42
And then just to clarify like no, like any, just like complaints about like, cancel culture and stuff, not like threatening statements or anything, correct.
Jaylan Harrington 19:52
Yeah, we, we were very fortunate to not receive death threats or anything of that nature. We did our best to protect the identities of protesters, it helps that everybody wears masks now. So that wasn’t a huge concern. And then while we did take down names and contact information that was remained in the hands of a student government official, and its since then been discarded of and that was just for COVID-19 tracing in the event that that was a concern. We could contact people, but it was as anonymous as possible so we could ensure that peace would wouldn’t be a concern.
Eoin Trainor 20:32
And then, since the protest, is there anything else under your purview that he’s been planning to do or have been able to do to address this situation?
Jaylan Harrington 20:42
This is a really good question. I spoke to it earlier about the university kind of starting to standardize asking questions related to DEI in all interviews and how that’s becoming a more standard piece of job descriptions. And so that’s something that I will continue to push for in search committees that I’m a part of, and then also just trying to see what we can do to standardize that practice moving forward.
Eoin Trainor 21:10
I think that’s it but thank you so much for your time.
Melanie Flowers 21:13
Awesome. I’m excited to listen for it thank you for covering this
Eoin Trainor 21:22
OIED is NC State’s Office for institutional equity and diversity. DEI stands for their diversity, equity and inclusion training programs. For more information you can go to diversity.ncsu.edu.
Laura Mooney 21:37
President flowers interview sheds light on how NC State as an institution reacted to the allegations towards Seagraves. However, student perspectives vary greatly on this issue. For further information on student reactions and how other outlets covered the story. We reached out to members of Technician, NC State’s longest standing student newspaper. For the latter half of this segment, we are joined by technician editor in chief Rachel Davis, managing editor Alicia Thomas and multimedia managing editor Jaylan Harrington. I’m Laura Mooney, and you’re listening to Eye on the Triangle on WKNC 88.1.
So let’s just go ahead and do some introductions just for you know, when I introduce this segment, the audience members will want to know who’s talking representing technician. So if you could share your names and positions at technician, that would be phenomenal.
Rachel Davis 22:35
Hi, my name is Rachael Davis. I’m the editor in chief of technician.
Alicia Thomas 22:41
I’m Alicia Thomas. I’m the managing editor at Technician.
Jaylan Harrington 22:49
And I am Jaylan Harrington. I’m the multimedia managing editor of Technician.
Laura Mooney 22:55
And for those who are unfamiliar with student media at NC State, I’m just going to do kind of a general overview question of why is student journalism important from the perspective of student journalists?
Jaylan Harrington 23:11
I’ll take that one. I think student journalism’s important because it’s really important to inform the student body of the current events that are happening on campus. We’re really the only outlet that cares about the minute details that are happening on campus. So keeping the student body informed is really, really important to me
Rachel Davis 23:35
It also informs students about issues or maybe policies, the ways of the university that they may not have known about.
Laura Mooney 23:45
The next thing I was going to ask was regarding informing the student body, what motivated you to cover this particular story?
Rachel Davis 23:53
Well, right off the bat, that a student was being targeted by this employee.
Alicia Thomas 24:02
To say, Yeah, I definitely think that that like, unique nature of the story was what was like, kind of shocking to us initially, because when we were sent a tip, I believe, I don’t really know. I don’t really remember who sent us what, at this point. It’s been a minute since we started covering it. But I definitely think it was like, was so obscure, and like strange enough, but also like, preposterous, we were like, We need to look into it more. And that’s kind of like what we do with like, weird stories like these when we have to, like investigate a little bit more because it was just like, some random employee and we were like, this cant be real. And then
Laura Mooney 24:52
Some random employee never heard of him before.
Alicia Thomas 24:55
Yeah, exactly. It was crazy. Especially with like the political climate over the summer, that was a huge deal. You know, like all the Black Lives Matter protests, the black students petition on campus, this was just like another thing, showing like white supremacy in Raleigh. And just furthering that narrative, that was like huge over the summer.
I think it kind of goes into, like, why student journalism is important, what like what we do at technician too because we feel it as journalists, and I’m sure, Laura, you understand as well. But like, as student journalists, we have a duty to inform students about who is around them on campus, and students have the right to know or feel safe and know whether or not campus is safe. So if that safety is threatened, obviously, that’s newsworthy, and we have to cover it.
Laura Mooney 26:00
Absolutely. And I think that’s great commentary. Because in so many different ways, this situation was really I wouldn’t say unprecedented. And we’ll get into that later. But it was a really unique thing to look at. So because of all the nuances of this situation, how did the technician team handle covering the situation? What was your strategy for going about that?
Well, I’ll just say, it was really hard. because not everything was confirmed, right off the bat, because there were social media accounts where it did not have his name on it or attached to it. And we were kind of going off the metadata of the anonymous comrades collective. And we had no way to confirm that information, because we didn’t have that information. So a lot of our coverage and articles on it was like, allegedly, and you know, surrounding around that language.
Jaylan Harrington 26:59
I would also say it takes a lot longer than our recording usually takes, like, we were covering it like it was a breaking story, because it was breaking news to us. But we kept having to pause and wait for days to wait for more things to come out so that we can actually run something. So the articles took much longer to come out because of that.
Laura Mooney 27:24
I guess regarding the fact that so much was unconfirmed at certain periods of time, how does that change the way you write about it?
Jaylan Harrington 27:36
For me, I’d scribe most of the first two articles we did. What I really wanted to do was hone in on whatever was confirmed. So the, you know, we only got to the point that we could run the very first article. Once we had the fact that NC State was investigating that was confirmed we knew that and once we also had the video of Augustus Solinvictus, literally saying thanks for inviting me Chadwick. Seagraves, like, once we had those two things, it was like, okay, we can pare down all of the other stuff that we don’t have confirmed and we don’t actually have to highlight that, because we’ve got these two really solid things.
Alicia Thomas 28:17
I also think it’s like interesting to discuss, like, what is reportable and what isn’t reportable or like, what isn’t confirmed? Because what was reportable was that like, or there was so much stuff happening online, and like rumors swirling around, and that obviously, like, we can see that we can take screenshots of that and put that in the article and say, there is a lot of there are a lot of unconfirmed. I don’t remember how we put it or even if we put it like that. I don’t know, Jalen, can, I’m sure Rachel and I don’t remember it as much as Jalen probably remembers that Rachel and I tend to like blackout when things like this are happening. When that’s like rumors are swirling, we can report that, hey, students are talking about this. We’ve reached out to Mick Kulikowski, the spokesperson, and we’ll provide updates. So like that’s kind of how we treat like unconfirmed information to we can report that people are saying x, y, z about the situation, but we also have to reach out to like, the spokesperson and honestly, we have to reach out to see we had to reach out to Seagraves himself to get like it confirmed to be like Hey
Rachel Davis 29:49
I guess to go more off that about like the rumors and fact checking. There was a point in time where there’s rumors on Twitter, that Chadwick Seagraves went to the Capitol riot in January. But we couldn’t just put that out there because that’s, you know, not very ethical without it being fact checked. And so we were able to, you know, do picture by picture fact-checking. And we were able to see that it was not him. Yeah, so I guess just a bunch of fact checking that takes a long time. And also being in constant contact with Mick Kulikowski University spokesperson asking like, because the investigation went on for a very long time. So emailing him, you know, every week every other two weeks about are there any updates on the investigation? And him just saying no. But yeah, being in constant like, following following up.
I think when we first even reached out at that point, it had been, I remember was like an afternoon, I emailed him or I called him or something. He’s like, I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Alicia Thomas 31:04
Because and university libraries had said that he wasn’t an employee there. So we were like, does this guy even work at NC State? There was like a lot of rumors swirling and, like, sometimes it just takes a long time, like I said, because at that point, the when the rumors started swirling around, the university had no idea what was going on. It broke fast. It was the talk of the town really quickly so
Rachel Davis 31:34
it definitely was and I remember talking to Melanie flowers to see the vice president that day. And she basically told me that she couldn’t really say anything. And the university couldn’t really say anything yet without everything being confirmed. Because there was just so much left out there that nobody knew.
Jaylan Harrington 31:53
Yeah. And speaking of how it blew up on Twitter, we usually don’t like tweet super early when a story like that breaks unless it’s something very confirmed. But when it first broke, there was like an internet mob harassing NC State libraries and their like why is this white supremacist, and they’re like, we have no idea what you’re talking about. And we had to tweet and be like, okay, the guy that there are unconfirmed reports about works in IT leave the libraries alone was like the implicit message that says, Yeah, yeah, no mob goes wild.
Laura Mooney 32:29
So I think that transitions really well. And the next question that I had, because there’s so much, you know, I think that there’s a lot of talk now about how people choose to express their opinions on the internet, and I will avoid divulging my own opinion there. But there is that, you know, Twitter specifically offers a platform for people to share their thoughts openly and very widely. So what feedback Do you receive on your coverage of this Chadwick Seagraves story.
Rachel Davis 33:03
I say our coverage was very, people liked it. Just a short thing, because not a lot of people were reporting on it. I mean, WRAL and everybody was reporting on it. But we were kind of constantly reporting on it, or keeping up to date having updates every now and then, especially towards the end, when the investigation did end, I think we were probably the first or one of the first news outlets to say that they did not find any, like evidence against him.
Laura Mooney 33:41
I’m going to skip around some questions a little bit. In your opinion, how was this covered by other outlets? You mentioned WRAL, I know that I’ve read articles by Indie week, like, how does your coverage differ from theirs?
Alicia Thomas 33:57
I think the difference between our coverage and like other local papers and news organizations, coverage is number one, I think we just like because we were NC State we were here, I think it’s a lot easier to get access to administrators that there are a lot more like I know. It was a lot easier to just like, or it’s very quick to reach out to whoever we needed to reach out to in upper administration to get like information first. As well as I think like student perspectives and student sources. I think because we are student paper we’ve created like we have a reputation where we are reputable. I like to think with most with many students on campus and they felt like trust in us to confirm information and talk to us to get more background information or talk to us off the record which I don’t know. I don’t know if WRAL or news and observer Indy week, other outlets like that had, they probably maybe did, but I don’t know if they had their student sources and that’s where I think that difference is
Rachel Davis 35:24
Definitely with the student trust, I would say it’s a big thing because yes, I think WRAL was at the freezeout protest a couple months ago, but they were just there for like maybe an hour or so and we were there the entire time, like walking around with the group. Every now and then. Also we- I just lost my phone-
Alicia Thomas 35:51
I’ll pop in while your thinking. Yeah. But I think like with new local news outlets, I can say this like when WRAL when we’re doing like updates to Chadwick Seagraves coverage because I know we did it, or there was like more news that came out. I don’t know. Recently, there always is something to be updated about Chadwick Seagraves, but when that’s happening, it’s just this is happening at NC State and university is investigating this employee here the allegations, bam, it’s done, article is done. And I think that our coverage has been more, more more more nuanced.
Rachel Davis 36:34
Yeah, it goes into my point that I forgot earlier. But we are able to publish like, student explainer pieces. So we just published a piece about, like, freedom of speech and why Chadwich Seagraves was not fired, because of you know, government employee roles, his place at the university. So we’re able to explain to students why the investigation went the way it did, which other outlets probably do not do that. Also, since we are at NC State, and we are students, we were able to write an editorial on our thoughts of the situation, which I don’t think any other news outlet did.
Laura Mooney 37:20
I think okay, so I have a lot of thoughts there. And I do agree completely that your coverage was extremely nuanced, and that you do have the benefit of proximity to the student body into the event itself, which provides access that other outlets may not have had. And I do think that came across in your coverages, which was why I was excited to talk about you, talk to you, not about you. You mentioned several times having a direct connection to the student body because of that community of trust that the technician has fostered over 100 years of functioning. And so what are your perceptions of the student bodies feelings? What were student reactions to the allegations and then also towards NC State’s decision not to fire Seagraves?
Alicia Thomas 38:08
I honestly think the majority opinion the majority of a student body is outraged by this decision to keep him at the university. I know at the freezeout protests there was maybe one or two counter protesters in favor like supporting Chadwick Seagraves, but the rest of the student body I mean, there’s still protests going on I it kind of died down, but I think last Friday, there was a protest against him. So I would say that the majority of the student body is still very angry that he is an employee here.
Rachel Davis 38:46
Yeah, and I think some I yeah, I think a lot of people are still incredibly angry. And yep there have been protests there was one a few days ago. In protest of the university’s decision, I do think there might be a silent a silent decent crowd of people who don’t think that, who who stand by the university’s decision, I mean, I think that we saw very clearly in 2019, during the TP USA event, how split our campus really is in terms of political ideology. I think that NC State compared to like our other, the other schools that are nearby, Like Duke and UNC is far more in the middle, in terms of political ideology we have. So I do think that there is there are a decent amount of people who do stand by the university’s decision to keep Chadwich Seagraves on staff or whatever. And I think that has been a point of contention, just like between students, obviously, and staff, and something that we probably should be covering more as well. Just thinking about it,
Laura Mooney 40:22
I think you bring up a great point with the turning point, NC State chapter and the culture wars protest, or the protest against culture wars that happened. And I think you’re right, I think it is 2019. You know, honestly, in my draft of questions that I had, I wrote that this is not the only highly publicized and controversial happening at NC State’s campus in recent years, and then referenced this same event that we’re talking about. My original question was, how do you think these events impact public perceptions of NC State? But truthfully, I don’t really care about the branding of NC State. How do you think that the continued recurrence of you know issues centered around conservative discourse? How do you think that reflects within the student body? Like, is this representative of larger trends within the university system? In your opinion?
Rachel Davis 41:21
This is a great question Laura, or Jaylen, you want to take that?
Alicia Thomas 41:26
I was gonna say, Jaylen, you haven’t spoken in a while
Jaylan Harrington 41:30
Of course, I would love to take this question. Um, I think it’s just representative of a trait in the world or at the very least, the United States. Now we’re more polarized than we’ve ever been. And I think, you know, the election of Donald Trump really made it a meme to be antagonistic, it made a meme to be openly all the -ists that you can be. So I do think that that’s going to continue to happen, we’re going to continue to have these events, there’s going to continue to be clashes, and they’re probably going to get worse. I wouldn’t imagine they’re going to get better anytime soon.
Laura Mooney 42:11
I think that’s a great question. And I also do think that, as reported by, you know, publications across the country across the world, honestly, Donald Trump’s influence on political culture, even beyond American borders is far more nuanced than I care to touch on in a 30 second audio clip. But within NC State, particularly, you know, these issues were brought to national platforms, particularly after turning point when Donald Trump invited NC State students and NCSU TP USA members to speak alongside him in Florida and other conventions that he had attended. So I guess in the wake of these kinds of things continuing to happen, as a voice of the student body, how do you believe that student media or students themselves can function to hold the university accountable in these instances?
Jaylan Harrington 43:12
I think by recording the truth, it’s funny that you mentioned that Donald Trump invited people to speak at rallies. One of the people he invited to speak was Jack Bishop, Jack Bishop during that time of the culture war, that claimed that he was spray painted in the face viciously by I forget who the group was nothing at NC State, I think. So we reported that we also went back and my video session did follow up recording with one of the people who was in the tunnel. And we had multiple eyewitness accounts, saying that was not what happened, essentially, that he moved his head into the way of this spraypaint. So things like that, where, you know, certain narratives are going to be started by certain people is our job to find out what the truth is. And usually the truth is all you’re really going to need to combat that.
Alicia Thomas 44:11
I definitely also think that, um, like you were saying, it has been just like with the election of Donald Trump, that, like Jalen said the ists have been more normalized and because of that, universities and other public entities like at other establishments are seeing manifestations of that. You look at what in 2018 when UNC tore down, toppled the Silent Sam statue, and just the slew of events that happened afterwards that you know, Just go into a more in depth discourse about race relations in the US and how that fosters or trickles down into even like a university system and how university administrators perpetuate racism. Even if it’s not, quote, unquote, intentional, I don’t know, if I’m articulate, articulating myself well, but I do think that there have been a lot of trends we’ve seen of people, people who are advocating for a change on a university level to be more inclusive and diverse, and be explicitly and consistently against racism, and implicit biases, biases, and all of that, and then that directly being challenged by people like, organizations like TP USA, or counter protesters, who were like no, f that essentially and will like come protest. Or if they say things online to people and threaten them. Again, he is threatened, we have to cover it.
Laura Mooney 46:37
Of course, I think you bring up a great point with talking about how consciously or otherwise administrative functions can perpetuate, you know, barriers to equality that for generations, for centuries have been sought by people who have been historically oppressed and continuously oppressed by these same barriers, and the list goes on of people who are impacted by them. And what was the faculty sentiment towards this thing, I know that you covered specifically faculty discussions and commentary in response to NC State’s choice not to fire Seagraves.
Jaylan Harrington 47:16
It was really confusion. They were just as confused as we were. And I think they also had the added element of they knew that students were going to look at them as like a mediary, between them and NC State. So their biggest concern was basically looking at what the university had done and going, Hey, you say you have all these values? You also say, you know, you can’t fire this guy. How are we supposed to defend you? What are we supposed to say to students? That was really, really the biggest point that hit me. Watching the faculty senate meeting was they were just as outraged as students are, they were probably more confused. And they just didn’t really know what to do at all.
Laura Mooney 48:06
Now, this is a question that we’ve asked other parties that we’re interviewing In this segment, and I think it’s important to ask your opinion as well. In your view, was NC State transparent during the investigation? Did they consult student media in any way during that process?
Rachel Davis 48:26
I do not think the university was as transparent as they could have been. The only reasons why we heard things about the investigation is because we reached out first. And even after the investigation, they wouldn’t really say, I’m not sure about the laws and what they can and cannot tell us. But when they did make the decision that there were no substantial allegations against him. They didn’t like say what their process was, you know, they just didn’t really inform us. They just kind of said, it’s done. And he’s fine.
Jaylan Harrington 49:05
Yeah, I’d say even the faculty senate video that gave us a lot of information, a lot of context as to, you know, the process that leaked, that was not something that was freely put out. That was something that somebody recorded, went out by themselves. So the process was extremely not transparent. And I think that’s why NC State is getting so much bad press from this so much bad wolf from this, if they’d just come out from the beginning and said, Look, he may have done this, but we just can’t fire him. Sorry, guys. The conversation would be different than them uou know, not saying anything at all.
Rachel Davis 49:45
okay to ask Jaylen and Alicia, if you remember, did they even put out a statement at all?
Jaylan Harrington 49:52
They said they were investigating is what I remember. I think. Or is at the very beginning was like we don’t like white supremacy, obviously. And that was about it. There was never a very big statement put out.
Rachel Davis 50:06
Yes, I would say that their lack of a big statement or just explaining what was happening, besides we will be investigating is pretty weak. And I would have liked as a student for them to have addressed it better.
Alicia Thomas 50:23
I think this is like an issue nationwide too. Because, again, talking about like the silent Sam stuff, the trend I’ve noticed, and I think that like Rachel and Jaylen to like, I think that student journalists and students are just frustrated at the lack of transparency and communication about issues that are extremely important to students. Yeah, I think that the only big statement we got was like, right was before when they were like, yeah, we hate racism, heart. And then like, at the end of the investigation, they were like, sorry, heart, he still works here. Peace, love. But like you’re safe on campus, which was like,
Rachel Davis 51:17
it’s like, how do we know that? You know, it’s like they’re saying that we’re safe on campus. But we’re not. We don’t know that because you’re not telling us any information of what you did or how you combated this issue. Like, you can’t trust not to be like, don’t trust the university. But after they said that, how can you be sure,
Laura Mooney 51:38
Trust has to be earned. And as a student at NC State, despite the fact that I don’t believe I represent groups who are directly targeted by this kind of rhetoric, perpetuated at NC State. I still recognize that trust, as I said, must be earned. And without providing that background context. As you said, statements, it’s really hard for the student body to meet NC State and say, okay, we accept this decision. Which leads us to the final question I have. How do you think this issue will be handled going forward? Do you think that it’s over now?
Rachel Davis 52:20
I do not think it’s over with him. I you know, I think it’s over with the whole discussion. I think there will be more instances of people like this coming out or getting exposed but for Chadwick Seagraves I don’t think it’s over for him either. The fact that there was a protest last week. And he’s getting one of the things for the freeze out protest was people writing him letters, and he’s being mailed a letter every day saying that he should resign. So it is definitely not over in any capacity.
Alicia Thomas 52:55
Yeah, I don’t I definitely don’t think it’s over with him. Like Rachel said, I definitely think there are more people on campus with similar beliefs that are laying low right now. who eventually people start to question their morality in their place in a diverse and inclusive campus. Yeah, I think it’s not over and so long as people, so long as we people continue to talk about it, and we continue to report on it. I hope that it like, I hope this conversation in this dialogue continues. So that I mean, I think that’s the point of student journalism, but it’s to start conversations and affect change and I hope that happens,
Rachel Davis 53:50
for sure. And like what you’re talking about with the university, I hope we never seen learned from this situation and that if there are instances like this going forward, they know how to better improve and how to better, like you said build trust with the students with handling these situations.
Laura Mooney 54:14
From the feedback provided by technicians, staff members, it is clear that this issue is anything but resolved. Furthermore, with student government continuing to send letters to Seagraves letters that currently remain unanswered, there yet exist cliffhangers in this story. As students and staff members alike continue to put pressure on the university to align their words with their actions. The disparity between the two is striking. For more information on this story, visit technicians website at technician online.com. Their coverage includes report on all relevant information, opinion pieces from both students and from Seagraves himself and a staff editorial in response to the initial news break. Furthermore, they’ve also published the university’s official statement on the investigation towards Seagraves and its results audience for tuning into this reflection on one of the semesters most controversial moments. This has been Eye on the Triangle only on WKNC 88.1