This post has been updated.
A noose was found hanging from a tree near the student union at Duke University on Wednesday.
The university had already been struggling with racial tensions in recent days after a black student reported being taunted by a white student with a racist chant about the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and lynching.
The noose was found about 2 a.m. in the Bryan Center Plaza, in the shadow of the school’s iconic chapel, a busy campus hub.
Larry Moneta, Duke’s vice president for student affairs, sent an e-mail to students Wednesday morning:
“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. Today, fear will be among the reactions students, and especially, students of color, will have. Be assured that the Duke community will provide all the support necessary to help us all get through this. In time, each of these cowardly acts of bias and hatred will strengthen our resolve to love and support each other.
“Appropriate investigations are underway and if we’re able to identify anyone responsible for committing this act of intimidation, they will be held fully accountable.”
He urged that anyone needing help after hearing the news, or with any information about the incident, should contact campus support staff or police.
A forum will be held at 5 p.m. on the steps of Duke Chapel to talk about the incident. Richard Brodhead, president of the university, and Provost Sally Kornbluth will speak, along with faculty and student leaders.
A photo of the noose, apparently made of yellow rope and hanging near outdoor tables and chairs, was posted on the tumblr site of the group People of Color Caucus, with this statement
“To all black students, staff, faculty, and/or Durhamites on campus and in the area: Please take care of yourselves and each other. 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.”
Social media was alight Wednesday morning, with disgust — and some skepticism — on Yik Yak. On Twitter, there were a few questions about whether it might have been related to April Fool’s Day or Final Four rivalries, and many, many messages of shock, anger and fear.
Midday, about 300 students marched from West Campus to the Bryan Center, chanting, “We are not afraid. We stand together.”
The president and provost weighed in with an email to the campus community Wednesday afternoon, writing:
“Our 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, early this morning, the discovery of a noose on the Bryan Center Plaza. As individuals, and as a university, we deplore these actions in the strongest possible terms. Today we ask you to help us demonstrate to our African-American students, faculty and staff, and indeed the world, our solidarity and unity in the face of cowardly acts of hatred by attending a university-wide forum at 5:00 in front of Duke Chapel. The two of us, along with students and faculty, will give voice to our concerns and show the community that can come together at this challenging time. We hope you will join us.”