DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — The swift discovery of the person who hung a noose at Duke University leaves questions ranging from the student's identity to what punishment the person will face.
The university has begun disciplinary proceedings that could result in suspension or expulsion, while federal and state law enforcement officials are investigating whether the action constitutes a crime.
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The university identified the person after several fellow students came forward with information, and the undergraduate student admitted to hanging the noose from a tree at a plaza in the heart of campus, university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said Thursday.
Schoenfeld said the student has left campus but is still enrolled. He declined to describe the culprit's gender, race or whether the student had been in trouble in the past, citing privacy laws.
On Thursday, the plaza where the noose was hung teemed with students enjoying a sunny afternoon and discussing what happened.
Sarah Burks, a junior English major from North Carolina, said punishing the culprit is the right move but that it's not going to change a campus culture in which "there's definitely still a lot of separation between different groups." She says friends of hers have experienced racism on campus.
"There's nothing else they can do when something like this ends up on the front page of the New York Times. They have to find the person," she said of university administrators.
Officials say the noose was found about 2 a.m. Wednesday in the plaza outside the Bryan Center, the student commons building. Black Student Alliance vice president Henry Washington said he and about 14 other students saw the noose hanging overnight after being alerted via Twitter. On Thursday, he praised the reaction of fellow students and administrators at the school.
"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," he said.
Duke Student Affairs Vice President Larry Moneta said the student responsible for the noose would face judgment under the school's code of conduct, which includes penalties ranging from probation to expulsion. He said it was "too soon to make any comment" about whether the student had expressed remorse.
"This is all part of what the investigation will yield and the opportunity for the student to speak to the basis for the behavior," Moneta said.
At a gathering Wednesday in front of the university's Gothic chapel building, Duke President Richard Brodhead told a crowd of several thousand that their presence was a rejection of what the noose symbolizes in a region where lynchings were once used to terrorize black residents. And he said that while administrators and campus police investigate the case, it is up to each individual to reject racism.
On Thursday, senior math major Marshall Ratliff was walking by the Bryan Center shortly after the announcement that someone admitted hanging the noose. Ratliff said he was happy the person responsible was found out.
"Duke is making it clear as a student and faculty community that this sort of bias and antagonism is not going to be tolerated on campus," he said.
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(Photo: AP/The Herald-Sun, Christine T. Nguyen)