Lawmakers condemn anti-Asian remarks from principal following UNC-Chapel Hill shooting

By: - September 6, 2023 3:50 pm

Wendy Waters, principal of Spring Creek High School in Seven Springs, shared the following post of her personal Facebook page after UNC-Chapel Hill shooting. (Image Facebook screen grab)

The North Carolina Asian American Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus condemned racist and xenophobic remarks from a Wayne County high school principal Wednesday in the wake of last week’s fatal shooting at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Wendy Waters, principal of Spring Creek High School in Seven Springs, took to her personal Facebook page after UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Tailei Qi was identified as the alleged shooter of Zijie Yan, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Applied Physical Sciences.

“What?” Waters wrote. “He only came to our country in 2022 from the UNIVERSITY OF WUHAN!!! My bet is he’s a Chinese Nationalist as a ‘visiting student’ stealing our intellectual property working for the [Chinese Communist Party]!!”

“There is nothing WHITE about him,” Waters wrote of Qi. “And since this is now at my front door I will not let them get away with their gaslighting BS!!!”

“WE NEED TO DECOUPLE FROM PEOPLE WHO HATE US!!!” Waters wrote. “Coming from a mad mamma!!!”

The post quickly spread on Facebook and on other social media sites, including Reddit.

Both the alleged killer and victim in the on-campus UNC-Chapel Hill shooting were originally from China, a fact that sparked racist and xenophobic rhetoric and COVID-19 related conspiracy theories online shortly after the shooting.

Waters was wrong about Qi only coming to the U.S. last year. He previously studied at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge beginning in 2019. He earned his master’s in Material Science there. He had previously studied at Wuhan University in Hubei Province, China, where he earned his bachelor’s in physics.

UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Tailei Qi was charged with first degree murder and possession of a firearm on education property. (Photo: Orange County Sheriff’s Office)

Yan had taught at UNC-Chapel Hill since 2019, coming to the campus after post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago and serving as an assistant professor at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. He earned a dual bachelor’s degree in Material Science and Engineering and Computer Science in 2005 from Hauzhong University of Science and Technology in Hubei province, China. That’s the same province in which Qi earned a bachelor’s in physics at Wuhan University. Yan earned his master’s in Physical Electronics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2007 and a Ph.D. in Material Engineering in 2011.

“The Asian American community in North Carolina is deeply offended and hurt by Ms. Waters’ racially charged comments on social media,” the North Carolina Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Legislative Caucus wrote in a statement Wednesday.  “We hold our educators and principals to the highest standards as they serve as role models for our children. While North Carolina is mourning the loss of Dr. Yan, we see an outpouring of support for the UNC community and our local Asian community from across the state.”

“As we recognize Dr. Yan’s legacy and many contributions of over four hundred thousand Asian Americans in North Carolina, the North Carolina Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Legislative Caucus stands together to condemn such hateful and dangerous rhetoric,” the caucus wrote in the statement. “We urge swift review and condemnation of Ms. Waters’ actions from the Wayne County school board and want to make sure that Ms. Waters is held accountable for the hurt and agony she has caused on so many Asian Americans who call North Carolina home.”

Zijie Yan
Zijie Yan, an associate professor in UNC-Chapel Hill’s department of applied physical sciences, was shot and killed on campus Monday. (Photo: UNC-Chapel Hill)

The statement was signed by N.C. Reps. Ya Liu, Maria Cervania, David Willis, Ed Goodwin and Jarrod Lowery as well as N.C. Sens. Jay Chaudhuri and Mujtaba Mohammed.

The statement was bipartisan, with three Republican lawmakers -Willis, Goodwin and Lowery – signing on.

Wayne County Public Schools released a statement saying the matter is “under review” and distancing itself from Waters’ comments.

“As role models for our students, every WCPS employee is held to the same professional standards in their public use of social media and other electronic communications as they are for any other public conduct in accordance with Board of Education Policy 7335” the statement read. “Wayne County Public Schools is aware of the personal social media post made by Spring Creek High School principal Wendy Waters. While we are limited in what we can say, as this is a personnel matter, we must be clear by stating that the personal post by Ms. Waters in no way reflects the views of the school district. This matter is under review and is being handled in accordance with local Board of Education policies.”

The Wayne County Board of Education meets on the first Monday of each month, with the next regular meeting scheduled for Oct. 2.

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Joe Killian
Joe Killian

Investigative Reporter Joe Killian's work examines government, politics and policy, with a special emphasis on higher education, LGBTQ issues and extremism.