The student responsible for a noose found hanging on Duke University campus has come forward, after the presumably racially motivated incident drew hundreds to rallies on the campus. The noose was discovered Wednesday, and by Thursday afternoon University police and the office of student affairs said that a Duke student had been identified as the perpetrator. The student, who remains unnamed, has reportedly left the campus.
Duke students discovered a noose tied out of thick yellow string on the main thoroughfare of the North Carolina campus in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Outrage ensued, the noose was swiftly removed, and both an internal and external investigation began. Police spokesman Keith Lawrence told reporters Thursday that the student had been identified but was “no longer on campus.” He told BuzzFeed News that the student in question had not been expelled.
In his statement, Lawrence added his assurance that the individual “will be subject to Duke’s student conduct process.” The school was coordinating with state and federal agents on the subject of “potential criminal violations,” he said, and was still on the look-out for potential collaborators. Lawrence stated that Duke did not yet know the motive for the act, and were “not at a point where we can speculate why he did what he did.”
In the aftermath of the discovery, Duke’s student body exploded in protest. The noose was seen as a symbol of lynching — an abhorrent legacy of the American south’s racist past. As The Guardian points out, the noose is a particularly potent image in North Carolina, where at least 86 black citizens were lynched in the years between 1882 and 1968. The Black Student Alliance quickly organized a rally that attracted hundreds of students Wednesday, while a meeting organized by Duke president Richard Brodhead later that day also attracted a large crowd.
The noose was found just a couple weeks after a different incident with racially charged overtones occurred. In March, a mob of white male students allegedly chanted a racist song (the Sigma Alpha Epsilom mantra) to intimidate a black female student. On Tumblr, the Duke People of Color Caucus (an anonymous group formed in response to the March incident), wrote Wednesday:
This campus is not a safe space, and has proven beyond any doubt that it is a hostile environment for any and all black people.
But the rest of the university was quick to denounce the noose. Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Moneta sent out a school-wide email that said, “I can’t begin to describe the disgust and anger I felt, and still feel,” at the discovery. In his address to the assembled crowd, Brodhead told over a thousand students that the he and the school were committed to repudiating such behaviour. “That’s not the Duke I know,” he said:
One person put up that noose, but this is the multitude of people who got together to say that’s not the Duke we want…That’s not the Duke we’re here for, and that’s not the Duke we’re here to create.
Black Student Alliance vice-president Henry Washington commended the Duke community on their reaction to the event. “I appreciate that immediate action was taken both by the student community to identify a person and by the faculty to ensure that disciplinary action is taken,” Washington said. And indeed, it seems the long arm of the law has been quick to act — ably assisted by tip-offs from the Duke community, according to student paper The Duke Chronicle.
In keeping with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the student’s name and personal information will not be released. This discretion has prompted some anger on social media.
Meanwhile, the noose is just the latest in a spate of racially motivated incidents on university campuses across the U.S. According to Salon, there’ve been at least seven recent incidents that involved racist aggression in various regions of the country. Three students at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania were expelled after they made racist comments on a campus radio broadcast, while a State University of New York campus was defaced with spray-painted swastikas and nooses.
At the University of Oklahoma, students were documented on video chanting the Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat song — the same lyrics that were allegedly used in Duke’s March incident. The song references lynching and incorporates racial slurs, promising that the fraternity will never accept black members. And then, of course, there was the Martese Johnson episode at UVA.
In the midst of such a disturbing flurry of incidents, it’s encouraging that Duke’s diverse student body are still able to protest as one. “We are not afraid. We stand together,” they chanted Wednesday. Let’s hope it’s that spirit of inclusion and solidarity that triumphs on America’s campuses.
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