Duke officials have asked anyone with information about the rope noose, which was found near a student center at 2 a.m., to call campus police
Photos of the noose prompted outrage from the community as they were passed along on social media.
At a forum held on the steps of Duke Chapel, close to where the noose was hung, hundreds of people gathered.
"You came here for the reason that you want to say with me, 'This is no Duke we will accept. This is no Duke we want. This is not the Duke we're here to experience. And this is not the Duke we're here to create,' " Duke President Richard Brodhead told the crowd.
The incident is one of several recent racist events to affect college students.
Last month a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma had its charter removed after a video surfaced showing members using the N-word and referring to lynching in a chant. Two students were expelled.
In February, a noose was hung around the neck of a statue of a famous civil rights figure at the University of Mississippi.
A statement issued by Duke said there was a previous report of hate speech directed at students on campus.
In the news release, the vice president for student affairs called the noose incident a "cowardly act."
"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," Larry Moneta said.
Duke University is a private college with about 15,000 students in Durham, North Carolina.