Duke University says student admitted hanging noose in tree

Duke University officials said Thursday that a student has admitted hanging a noose in a tree on the campus early Wednesday.

At a news conference, Duke officials said the student is no longer on campus. The student will go through a campus disciplinary process, which could include a hearing panel and, if the student is found responsible, a range of punishments such as suspension or expulsion.

In addition, Duke is coordinating with the State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation about potential criminal violations, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations.

He declined to release the name of the student, citing the federal law that protects educational records. He also would not reveal the student’s gender or race.

Schoenfeld said students brought forth credible information about the incident to Duke police and student affairs staff. The investigation will continue in an effort to determine whether others were involved, he added.

“At this point, we’re not in a position to discuss motivation or anything beyond that,” Schoenfeld said.

Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, thanked people for coming forward.

“I’m extraordinarily gratified that students, in particular, were very quick to bring to our attention information that they had,” Moneta said. “This was clearly something that outraged the entire community, and I think students really bonded in joining many other students to try to help us figure out what happened and be as responsive as we could.”

The noose was discovered about 2 a.m. Wednesday in the Bryan Center plaza. Word spread quickly through social media. The incident occurred about a week and a half after a student’s report of racist remarks by another student on Duke’s East Campus. The university is investigating that incident.

By midday Wednesday, the Black Student Alliance led a student march at the area where the noose was found. Later, more than 1,000 people gathered outside Duke Chapel for a forum, where faculty, students and Duke President Richard Brodhead denounced racism and pledged to work on the campus climate.

Despite the quick identification of a suspect, there was still unease on campus Thursday. Students said the appearance of the noose wasn’t an isolated incident.

“The fact that this student is no longer on campus isn’t an isolated solution,” said Sarah Du, a junior from Seattle. “I think we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Arianna Price, a junior from Tucson, Ariz., agreed. “I don’t think anyone would say this one individual not being here solves anything.”

Near the tree where the noose was found, a group of students gathered to study and chat at a table late Thursday.

Tolu Lawal, a student from New York, said in some ways the noose made some people recognize the racial undercurrents on campus that black students have long complained about. “People don’t believe it until they see it,” she said.

David Ivey, a student from Washington, D.C., said Thursday’s development in the investigation was welcome but provided no real closure. “It’s nice that they caught the guy,” he said. “It still doesn’t resolve any of the structural problems that exist.”

Nearby, work continued on a construction project at the center of campus. A large chalkboard wall at the edge of the site featured dozens of fill-in-the-blank responses to “Before I die I want to ...” One of them finished the phrase with this: “... see a world where no one would hang a noose in a tree.”

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