It did not take long for NC State University to light its iconic belltower red after their baseball team defeated James Madison University to become NCAA Raleigh Regional Baseball champions, advancing to this weekends baseball’s Super Regionals against Georgia in Athens.

This is what the Belltower is for. Not spray paint and vandalism.

As an NC State graduate with a son who will be a freshman at State next year, I felt intense anger when I saw that vandals had disgraced the North Carolina State University Belltower.

The words “Rafah,” “Gaza,”‘ and “Free Pal” were sprayed painted around the base of the tower, surrounded by red-painted handprints last week.

According to WRAL, two yet unidentified vandals in dark clothing were caught on the Belltower live camera late Memorial Day night spraypainting these messages. With black paint, the vandals also crossed out the tribute to alumni of the school who had fought and died in World War I. Disgusting, especially on Memorial Day. This was part of a very long string of disruptions and protests (blocking roads, camping out on campuses, boycotts) that have taken place in support of Palestinians, after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas sparked a war with neighboring Israel.

Many notable North Carolinians, especially those who attended NC State, were not pleased.

State Rep.  Erin Pare (R-Wake) said on X:

“Desecrating the WWI Memorial Belltower on Memorial Day, or any day, is a complete and utter disgrace. The perpetrators of this act must be held accountable and receive the strongest punishment allowable by law. People are sick and tired of witnessing these anti-American, pro-stupidity losers acting like complete idiots, and now they are spitting in the face of heroes who have given their lives for our country – this cannot be tolerated.”

Sportscaster Kelly Calhoun, an NC State graduate, said:

“NC State has a ‘Freedom Expression Tunnel’ which is only a short walk away from the Belltower which was vandalized last night on Memorial Day. They are free to spray paint anything in the tunnel. This is disturbing and disrespectful.”

All spring, as NC State had one of its most successful athletic years in recent memory, the Belltower was the center of celebration. Thousands of NC State alumni, students, and fans flocked to celebrate at the Belltower to celebrate the NC State Men’s Basketball teams first ACC Championship in over three decades. Further celebrations commenced when both NC States men’s and women’s squads advanced to their respective Final Fours. 

You can’t imagine, after raising my son to love NC State sports, the absolute joy it was for me to celebrate under the Belltower, illuminated in red with my son, minutes after these big win and just days after he was accepted to be part of the class of 2028.

NC State currently promotes their school with the phrase “Think and Do. Long before NC State adopted this brand, over 100 years ago, some enterprising NC State students thought and did, leading to the Belltower construction.

According to the NC State Belltower website, “The idea for a monument to honor NC State alumni killed in World War I originated with Vance Sykes, a member of the class of 1907. By 1920, a planning committee hired architect William Henry Deacy to design a memorial tower at the entrance to the campus.”

The monument, which is 115 feet tall, brings the campus community together for moments of unity. The Belltower is the most iconic symbol on the NC State Campus. It is illuminated red after key athletic victories. It’s a been the backdrop for countless graduations, reunion and engagement photos.

At the end of each semester, the Alumni Association holds a ring ceremony for students who are receiving their class rings. One entire day is dedicated for students leaving their rings to spend the night inside the belltower.

This is why the vandalism was so upsetting to the NC State community. At some point folks need to learn, whatever your pet cause is, you don’t win hearts and minds by vandalism, traffic blocking, and planting seeds of chaos.

Good news is the university acted quickly and has restored the Belltower to its former glory.

Just a day later, some students gathered to celebrate NC State graduate Abby Lampe, who captured her second title in one of Britain’s most extreme annual events: Cheese rolling. That is the kind of community building celebration that the Belltower deserves and represents.