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Concerns about racism at UD stoked by "noose-like' object incident

More than a thousand students, faculty and staff gathered in front of Memorial Hall at the University of Delaware Wednesday to assure minority members of their community they stand with them against real and perceived racism faced on the Newark campus.

Reports of ‘noose’-like objects hanging from a tree in front of Mitchell Hall surfaced Tuesday night. Two students later told UD Police they were used to hang paper lanterns months ago and weren't properly taken down.

Flocks of outraged people took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and campus police initially investigated the incident as a hate crime.

The objects were reported to police one day after an on-campus talk given by Fox News pundit Katie Pavlich, who refers to the Black Lives Matter movement as a “violent hate group.”

University officials released the results of the investigation in an email to students and faculty early Wednesday morning.

During the day, acting President Nancy Targett met with students to find ways to improve UD’s relationship with minorities.

“Some have told me of instances when they felt like outcasts on their own campus, like their opinions and views, their lives didn’t matter. That broke my heart. In their words, I did not recognize the university that I have known and loved for more than 30 years,” Targett said.

Despite the investigation’s findings, several students who spoke during the more than hour-long event kept referring to the objects as nooses.   Eli Webster was among them.

“This left me sleepless for many hours, but while President Targett and others have reassured us that this was not a hate crime, my sleeplessness and emotion has not gone away,” Webster said.

Others recounted how they hadn’t encountered overt racism until enrolling at UD and moving to Newark, having racial slurs screamed at them as they walk down the street.

Carol Henderson, UD’s new Vice Provost for Diversity, says though this specific incident may not have been a hate crime, the emotions felt by those who saw the images are real.

“Members of our campus community are in pain,” said Henderson. “We need to recognize that and we need to walk arm-in-arm with them to say, ‘I am concerned because you are concerned.’”

She also noted that university administrators are reviewing a ‘diversity action plan’ that has yet to be released.

Sophomore Obichukwu Maduka-Ugwu says he’s relieved by the large show of support and more people lending their voices to those who feel marginalized, but he remains skeptical meaningful change will come of the incident.

“I wish I could tell you that that was what it’s going to be and I’m not also going to say that that is not what it’s going to end up being. All I can tell you is that I hope,” Maduka-Ugwu said.

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