Travis Long / The News & Observer / AP Photo

Duke University student admits to putting noose in tree

The student could face disciplinary action, including a possible suspension or expulsion

A Duke University student has admitted to placing a noose in a tree on the campus in Durham, North Carolina and could be disciplined, a school spokesman said on Thursday. 

The rope, found on Wednesday, was taken down by school officials, who vowed to hold accountable anyone found responsible for the incident described by an official as an "act of intimidation." 

More than 1,000 students, faculty and others gathered at events on campus on Wednesday to express outrage over the incident, the school said.

This photo provided by Henry Washington shows a rope noose hung from a tree Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Durham, N.C.
Henry Washington/AP

The student was identified after the school encouraged anyone with information about the noose to call campus police. Fellow students came forward with information, said school spokesman Keith Lawrence.

The student will face an undergraduate student conduct inquiry that could result in a range of sanctions, from lesser disciplinary action, to suspension or expulsion, Lawrence said.

"The university continues to review the circumstances of the incident to determine if additional individuals were involved," the school said in a statement, adding that it continues to work with state and federal officials "about potential criminal violations." 

Officials say the noose was found about 2 a.m. in the plaza outside the Bryan Center, the student commons building.

Black Student Alliance vice president Henry Washington said he and about 14 other students saw the noose hanging overnight after being alerted via Twitter.

“We wanted to see if it was an actual thing. And yeah, there it was,” said Washington, a sophomore from Aliceville, Alabama.

President Richard Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth earlier sent a joint email to students, saying the Duke campus “has been jolted over the past few weeks by several racial incidents, including a report of hateful speech directed at students on East Campus” and the discovery of the noose.

“To whomever committed this hateful and stupid act, I just want to say that if your intent was to create fear, it will have the opposite effect,” Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email to students.

Brodhead, Washington and other members of the Black Student Alliance had previously scheduled a meeting Wednesday morning to discuss the campus atmosphere for blacks.

“Obviously the conversation needed to shift to kind of the things that happened this morning. We expressed to President Brodhead that students were just kind of exhausted. Students didn't know how to feel,” Washington said.

A noose in general is a racially charged symbol of lynching, or extrajudicial public execution by hanging, a once common practice in parts of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By one estimate, some 3,500 African-Americans were lynched from 1882 to 1968.

Students Tara-Marie Desruisseaux, 19, of New York, and Jada Gibbs, 19, of Dumont, New Jersey, said the incident came days after they helped host a recruiting weekend at Duke for talented black high school students from around the country. Duke has about 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It costs about $60,000 a year to attend as an undergraduate, including room and board, according to the school's website. About half of all undergraduate students receive financial aid.

“Now I feel like they're looking back at us and wondering, what were they selling me and what do they accept that they think Duke is so great?” Desruisseaux said.

While minorities may be forced to cope with racism at other selective universities, “I think the fact that Duke is in the South gives it something different from Stanford or Harvard,” she said. “I think the way that racism resonates is a lot stronger here just because not that long ago Duke's campus was segregated and the only blacks on this campus were cleaning up bathrooms.”

Freshman student Anika Richter said though she is half-Japanese and half-Colombian, growing up in Baltimore meant many of her friends were black.

“Honestly, I'm appalled and embarrassed to go to the school right now,” said Richter, who saw a photo of the noose on Facebook just after waking up Wednesday. “Coming to Duke, I was very nervous about the racial tensions at the school but I never actually imagined that something so blatantly racist could happen here.”

The incident at Duke is the latest alleged racist behavior at a university. Last month, U.S. prosecutors said a former University of Mississippi student had been indicted on civil rights charges accusing him of draping a noose and a Confederate flag around the neck of a statue of that school's first black student.

At the University of Washington, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is under fire for another incident of alleged racist behavior after black students at the University of Washington accused local chapter members of calling them “apes” and making obscene gestures, according to The Seattle Times.

That allegation came just days after the University of Oklahoma shuttered SAE’s campus chapter following the release of a video of fraternity members chanting a song that used a racial slur against blacks and said that blacks would never be admitted to the group.

Al Jazeera and wire services 

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