In November 2020, NC State University employee Chadwick Seagreaves was reported to the university due to his connections to the Proud Boys, a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and an organization that espouses white nationalist ideas. He was also accused of harassing an NC State student online in 2019 and of publicizing the names of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters in Portland, Oregon, and Asheville, NC. In a Jan. 11, 2021, announcement from NCSU administration, it was declared that Seagreaves would not be fired because their review did not provide evidence of “substantiated violations of the law or NC State policies.” This announcement was the catalyst for NC State’s student government to organize a protest, which was held on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Due to Meredith College’s close proximity to and frequent social and academic collaboration with NC State, this is an issue that pertains to us as well as students at our larger neighboring university. While NCSU administration noted that their review “did not substantiate any significant allegations” against Seagreaves, IndyWeek states that he has “been photographed at far-right extremist events in North Carolina” and that “metadata for more than 1,400 personal files reportedly traced back to Seagraves” in connection with the allegation that he released names of BLM protesters. In regards to his alleged harassment of an NC State student, Seagreaves reportedly used an online alias and called the student a “jihadist” in November 2019 because of the student’s left-leaning political views. Seagreaves himself told the News & Observer that he was not a member of the Proud Boys and denounced white supremacism, but did not comment about posting activists’ personal information online.
Following the student protest on Jan. 19, NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson issued a statement on Jan. 20 that reminded readers, “All employees and students have First Amendment protections that must be upheld, and even speech many of us consider hateful can be protected.” While Chancellor Woodson’s words are true and the First Amendment does protect individuals from being persecuted for their words, it appears from the evidence given in the IndyWeek article that Seagreaves’ actions frequently went beyond words. While harassing a student and BLM protesters online in the way that Seagreaves is reported to have done may not be strictly illegal, it is behavior that demonstrates a willingness to intimidate individuals whose opinions differ from his own. It doesn’t matter whether or not Seagreaves has access to students’ personal information. For a college employee who no doubt interacts with students and staff of varying backgrounds and beliefs on the daily, his past behavior is troubling. NC State students, and to some extent Meredith students, have the potential to be impacted by individuals such as Seagreaves, who feel empowered to continue this behavior knowing there will be no consequences as long as they keep their harmful words and behaviors online.
Seagreaves’ case goes beyond firing just one man. The internet has given a platform for people to speak hatefully about those who are different than themselves and to dangerously disperse the names of people who are advocating for social change and racial justice. Harassing a student and publishing BLM protesters’ names is not a harmless act, even if it is online, and treating it as such will only ensure that it happens again. Meredith students, we should stand with our NC State neighbors and support them in their continued calls for Seagreaves to resign, setting a precedent for those who carry out similar actions.
By Olivia Slack, Co-Editor in Chief