Warren Wilson College students rally after “KKK” carved into campus tree; campus police investigate ‘hate crime’

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

warren_wilson_college_kkk_treeWarren Wilson College students responded with a candlelight vigil and tree-wrapping event this week after the letters “KKK” and a smiley face were found carved in a tree outside the student dining hall, an incident administrators are treating as a hate crime.

Students spent Friday afternoon wrapping the tree outside Gladfelter Dining Hall in strips of fabric upon which students were encouraged to write “messages of love.” The fabric covered the letters carved into the tree. A campus spokesman on Friday said campus police were continuing to investigate.

Paul Perrine, the college’s dean of students, said in an email to students that such actions won’t be tolerated:

This morning a hate crime (an act of vandalism with associated bias) was reported to Public Safety. The letters “KKK” with a smiley face above them have been carved into the tree outside the main entrance of Gladfelter. This hate crime will NOT and can NOT be tolerated on our campus. Public Safety with the Landscaping Supervisor removed more bark to obscure this hateful message.

We are currently investigating this as a hate crime and are collaborating with Public Safety and their resources. This is a particularly egregious crime against our community—it shakes our whole campus. If you have any information whatsoever about this act or have seen similar markings, please contact Public Safety, Lorrie Jayne, Brian Ammons, Paul Perrine, or anyone is Student Life.

Just a year ago, we gathered around this tree for a peace vigil in response to a similar incident. Today at 12:30, Chaplain Brian Ammons will gather us once again around this tree to stand in solidarity against hate.

The lettering was discovered Monday and students first responded with a massive rally that essentially shut down normal campus life and spurred discussions of diversity and acceptance, according to students. The incident follows a recent decision announcement by college officials to reorganize the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives, as well as a proposal by college administrators to cut the school’s business department. The department, with only 17 majors, is one of the most diverse on campus.

All the incidents add up to a feeling among some students that diversity is under assault at Warren Wilson College, a student who didn’t want his name used, said Friday. Students are upset about the vandalism incident, the changes to the diversity program and the proposal to cut the business department. Students are circulating the following petition regarding the business department:

I feel that the sustainable business major is an essential course of study at Warren Wilson College.
The major provides practical real-world education that balances the coursework offered in other departments while staying aligned with the sustainable and progressive nature of the school’s mission and student body.
The major attracts and supports both International and students of color, diversifying the population at Warren Wilson College;
I believe that it would be a detriment to the school’s students, mission, and contributions to the greater community if this major was eliminated for any period of time.
I hereby do not support the decision to close the Sustainable Business major (even temporarily) at Warren Wilson College.

Campus officials are restructuring its diversity program. Here’s part of the communication from Perrine regarding that issue:

“We intend to broaden and clarify the mission for this office, redefine the role of its director, and then conduct a national search for a new director for this reshaped department.

“The president will be appointing a task force to make recommendations regarding the scope and expectations for the new director’s position. Once this restructuring is complete, a national search will be conducted to fill the position.”

More as I get it.

The Echo, the campus newspaper at Warren Wilson College, on the “KKK” issue in the tree here; and on the proposal to cut the business department.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

You Might also Like


  1. Dogmoe December 3, 2013

    It’s becoming more apparent that there is a small percentage of today’s youth are immature and haven’t been taught all of our American history. Our current godless culture of accepted pretend violence has produced a desensitized element that finds hate and violence as a means of sensation and power. We can squawk and be in an uproar over WW trying to create a task force to investigate and make a recommendation. But what I’m not hearing are any other proposed solutions.

    1. Big Al December 5, 2013

      Solution: quit yer effing whining, shave some bark off the damn tree, and get on with your life.

      Buncha divas.

  2. smytty November 27, 2013

    Nice level of discourse fellas. Really? Expressing disproportionate outrage at a perceived disproportionate outrage? And you are pointing out the “irony” of the student body for not being diverse?

    Yes, there are reasons for the stereotypes at WWC, some of them deserved. But lots of WWC alums have remained in the local community and are major contributors to Asheville through work in politics, non-profits, and small businesses. To paint with a broad brush is using the same ignorance that you are accusing them of.

    In my experience, many current WWC students exhibit work ethic and critical thinking skills that many of their late-teen peers at other universities are sorely lacking.

    Do yourself a favor and talk to some of the students who are up and at work at 5am on the farm, or who work to write and publish press releases on behalf of the college, or who are likely out there right now shoveling snow on campus to make sure everything runs smoothly today. You might be surprised what you find.

    1. Big Al November 27, 2013

      Outrage? Hardly.

      Disdain, yes.

      Mirthful disrespect, probably, but well-earned.

      You should be thankful for the cheese we are providing to go with your whine.

  3. jared rutledge November 26, 2013

    +1 to Big Al on calling out the irony of Warren Wilson students using militaristic jargon in the name of enforcing tolerance.

    I think people whose lives are (slightly) less insulated find these reports amusing not because the KKK is a good organization, or because white privilege doesn’t exist, but because this is such a petty thing to be outraged about.

    Wilson students – did you form a task force to call on the United States government to accurately count and report civilian drone strike deaths? Or do Pakistani men, women, and children mindlessly wiped out by our tax dollars matter less than the delicate sensitivities of white college students?

    Did you form a task force to investigate the suicides at Foxconn factories in China that make your MacBooks? If three letters offend you, how about the NC legislature gerrymandering your school campus to neuter your votes?

    Hate sucks, and quite frankly this country needs more outrage than we currently manufacture. But perhaps we could start with the monstrous evils and work our way down to tree carving.

  4. Wilson November 26, 2013

    Big Al, this is how we as students feel. We feel that a task force is not enough.
    Steve, your first comment is rude, offensive, poorly backed, and based entirely on assumptions you yourself have made. ask me about my suffering. go ahead. i dare you. And yes, maybe our administration SHOULD take a good hard look at what its actions are supporting – but I fear that the people we have in administration now are so egotistical that they will not back down once they have formulated an idea for fear of looking stupid. oh well, what can ya do?

    1. Big Al November 26, 2013

      I was not agreeing with you, I was being sarcastic. Watching spoiled hipster children use capitalist-industrial/military jargon like “task force” is like watching lambs trying to roar like lions.

  5. Sean November 26, 2013

    My God.

    The only thing worse than this extremely distasteful attempt at “pranking” the WWC crowd is all of the faux outrage in response to it. Warren Wilson is almost as diverse as downtown Asheville, and by that I mean not at all.

  6. Food Nerd November 25, 2013

    I am a bleeding heart, dirty socialist liberal and I have to wonder what sort of world WW kids think they’re living in? They’re this offended by some shitty grafitti on a tree? To read FB statuses from WWC kids you’d think there was a full regiment of Klansmen marching on campus. Have these kids never used a public, gas station bathroom?

    1. Big Al November 26, 2013

      This facist right-winger agrees with you. The children should shut up and go back to class and let the groundskeeper shave the damn tree.

  7. H November 25, 2013

    Hey, I’m a student at Warren Wilson. We’re not being a bunch of drama queens, this is a legitimate hate crime regardless of whether or not you believe it to be. Even if someone did it as a “joke”, they had to know what weight those three letters carry. It’s negatively impacted a lot of students of color on campus as well as a bunch of other students. Complaining that we’re being “a bunch of drama queens” lets me know that you’re an insensitive asshole and obviously are ignorant of your (assumably) white privilege.

    In regards to the comment on tuition, I can’t speak for my fellow students, but the only reason I’m here is because of financial aid and scholarships. I’ve been homeless during my lifetime and have lived in Asheville all of my life.Don’t make assumptions about the entire student body, especially if you aren’t even part of our community.

    Yes, our school has a lot to work on in terms of race relations and education concerning power and privilege; we do not have a very diverse population of students. Bringing in more students of color is not going to solve this issue; quite the contrary actually as these incidences are making several students want to leave the college. This is a problem that our campus needs to work on, and is not one that is going to be solved in a matter of weeks.

    1. Scott November 26, 2013

      Your response makes me laugh. This has negatively impacted a lot of students of color?? WW doesn’t HAVE a lot of students of color! 3% black. What diversity! In terms of my “white privilege”, I would give my left nut to be reincarnated as a black female over the age of 40. I’d rule the fucking world!

    2. Anonymous January 30, 2014

      I went to Warren Wilson last year and transferred out of the shithole, so I can attest to the fact that the majority of you are drama queens, as well as the gaggle of incompetent administration who try to keep their school in a bubble. It’s a shame that so many great teachers work at such a horrible excuse for a college.

      1. Big Al January 31, 2014


  8. That Guy November 25, 2013

    Search the student directory for anybody with the initials K.K.K. I bet somebody was wasted. Everyone calm down.

  9. Scott November 23, 2013

    Oh dear gawd. What a bunch of drama queens.

  10. Steve November 23, 2013

    Conversely, since the College is scaling back the most diverse program that is partiall funded by private contributions, maybe the College Administration should take a good hard look at itself and if they indirectly influence and support this behaviour.

  11. Steve November 23, 2013

    First off, there is very little diversity at Warren Wilson College. Secondly, these students are pretty out if touch with reality and life from what I can tell. I mean, $33,000 a year for tuition? How many of these kids have ever gone without or suffered growing up so far? This was a stoned or drunk student doing something else thoughtless.

  12. Big Al November 23, 2013

    Ooooh, a “task force”.

    Only white hipsters need apply.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Stories