A Duke University student who admitted hanging a noose on campus last month has been sanctioned but will be allowed to return to the university next semester.
On Friday, the university announced the outcome of its investigation, saying the incident was the result of the student’s “ignorance and bad judgment.”
The university did not reveal the undergraduate student’s identity, nor the nature of the sanction, citing federal student privacy law.
Law enforcement authorities have closed their investigations into the matter and “will be taking no further action,” said a post on the university’s website.
Also published on the university website was a lengthy letter of apology from the student to the Duke community, which insisted that there was no intent to express racism by the action of placing a noose in a tree outside the student center on April 1.
“Unfortunately, through my lack of cultural awareness and joking personality, I ended up unintentionally creating a huge mess for myself, my friends, my family and many members of the Duke community that I severely regret,” the student wrote. “At the time, I truly did not appreciate the historical sensitivity of a noose hanging in a tree.”
The student wrote that the purpose of the action was to take a few photos of the noose with friends and text it to others, inviting them to come “hang out.”
“If there was ever a pun with unintended consequences – this was certainly one,” the letter continued. “In addition, when I left I carelessly forgot the noose hanging on the tree for the rest of the afternoon and the evening rather than discarding it, as I should have.
“As a result, people saw it and because of the historical meaning of a noose in the South, a fact that because of my background and heritage I was completely unaware of, conclusions were made that whomever had made the noose did it for racist reasons. This led – completely justifiably – to the student demonstrations, and the school’s expression of disgust of my actions.”
The letter said the student came forward to the university administration to take responsibility for the act and to explain it.
But some Duke students weren’t buying the explanation.
Reggie Benbow, a graduate business student who is African American, summed up his reaction in one word: “Flabbergasted.”
“To know what a noose is, you have to know the significance of it,” Benbow said. “To be in the South, this is still the American South with a history. You can feel it, you can see it. It’s just unbelievable that someone didn’t know what that meant.”
Zoelene Hill, a public policy doctoral student, agreed. The perpetrator, she said, just didn’t understand the outrage his action would generate.
“He thought his inside joke would remain an inside joke,” said Hill, who is African American. “That’s what his problem is. The whole statement was ridiculous.”
The student’s race and gender were not identified, but the student wrote that things at Duke had been going well until the incident, specifically mentioning a new relationship with a woman.
The incident sparked a huge response on campus, with a march by African-American students and a large gathering that drew hundreds to the steps of Duke Chapel for a peaceful rally.
The noose incident followed a report in March by a student who said she encountered students on Duke’s campus chanting the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity song that had been caught on video at the University of Oklahoma. The song refers to lynching and says that blacks will never be members of the organization.