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Death threat including homophobic slur found on first floor of East Residence Hall

A death threat against freshman Jack Donahue including a homophobic slur was written in black marker on the first-floor corridor of East Residence Hall and discovered at approximately 3 a.m. Thursday morning, Donahue told The Chronicle Thursday afternoon.

"I am angry, frustrated and disheartened by this attack. I am a proudly out and visible homosexual on campus and hatred like this is exactly what keeps innocent victims of circumstance in the closet and queer people living in a constant state of fear, which is often incorrectly perceived as cowardice," Donahue wrote in an email. "This needs to be taken as an assault on not only me but my people and used as an offensive against blissful ignorance on our campus and hateful contempt that runs rampant in our world. "

According to an email to all East House residents from Lisa Beth Bergene, associate dean for East Campus, Housing, Dining and Residence Life was able to have the message removed early Thursday afternoon.

The email stated that the Duke University Police Department is investigating the incident and noted that "we're in the process of pulling the DukeCard information for the front door of East for last night/this morning."

Bergene noted in the email that she was pleased with the support Donahue received after the incident, but urged students to do even more in response.

"I was so grateful to see how quickly people in the building reached out to Jack. It also looked like people tried to remove the writing from the wall themselves," she wrote. "Thank you for doing that. I encourage you to continue to be supportive of Jack and of one another. But you can do more. Call out your friends when they make an inappropriate joke. Stop your friends when they write comments on dry erase boards. Take classes that challenge your way of thinking! Go to cultural activities on campus to grow in your own knowledge of the experience of your classmates. No one on this campus should ever feel unwelcome or threatened."

Donahue noted that he will be speaking at an event in response to the incident Friday at 1 p.m. on the steps of the Duke Chapel.

Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said that in addition to making sure Donahue continued receiving support and assisting DUPD with the investigation, another priority would be finding ways to interrupt such hateful actions such as the threat against Donahue and the defacement of a Black Lives Matter flyer Oct. 23.

"I'm a little fearful that we may be in a period of some copycat hatred," Moneta said.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for government relations and public affairs, said in a statement released by the University that once again student response shows the character of the University community more than the actions of the vandal.

"The swift and passionate response by Duke students to this cowardly act, like others before it, demonstrates the integrity and principles of the Duke community far more than any anonymous graffiti," Schoenfeld said. "Duke does not and will never condone intolerance, regardless of where and when it arises."

DUPD Chief of Police John Dailey noted in an email late Thursday that there were no further updates at this time and urged anyone with information about the incident to contact DUPD.

This story was updated at 10:55 p.m. to include Dailey's comment, 5:50 p.m. to include Schoenfeld's statement and at 5:15 p.m. with Moneta's comments. 


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