No nooses at University of Delaware, police say, but anxiety persists

A student reported three nooses hanging from a tree on a green space in the middle of the University of Delaware campus.

Story highlights

  • Students reported seeing nooses hanging from a tree on campus
  • Police say the ropes were not nooses
  • The ropes were left over from paper lanterns hanging from the tree, police say

(CNN)The discovery of what looked like nooses hanging from a tree at the University of Delaware in Newark stirred outrage and anxiety this week, even after police ruled out a hate crime.

On Tuesday, a student reported three nooses hanging from a tree on a green space in the middle of the campus. On Wednesday, police said they determined the ropes were not nooses but "remnants of paper lanterns from an event previously held on The Green."
"We received several reports from students who said they had seen the materials hanging in the tree," university police Chief Patrick Ogden said. "I am confident that we have determined the origin of these items."
    Still, the news did not assuage the consternation of some students.
    "I seriously doubt that that was left over from a 'paper lantern event.' How did no one notice that until last night @UDelaware?" one Twitter user said.
    Others said photos of the same spot from days ago show nothing hanging from the tree.
    The incident, even if it was not intentional, left students shaken.
    In a statement after the discovery but before the police investigation's conclusion, university acting President Nancy M. Targett called the ropes "hateful acts."
    "Such cowardly and reprehensible acts are clearly designed to intimidate and frighten, and they are unacceptable on our campus," Targett wrote.
    The university president followed up hours later with a second statement, sharing the police findings.
    "At the same time, the sensitivity of our campus to this potential issue clearly indicates a need for continuing dialog within our community," Targett said.
    She encouraged students to gather Wednesday afternoon at The Green for a discussion.
    Despite the police findings, the concerns at the University of Delaware reflect ongoing racial tensions in the country. American college campuses have not been spared from racist incidents or discussions over how to address them.
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    Earlier this year, a Duke University student admitted to hanging a noose made of rope from a tree near a student union.
    A month before, 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 2014, a noose was hung around the neck of a statue of a famous civil rights figure at the University of Mississippi.
    With such racist incidents documented on other campuses, it's understandable that the ropes hanging at the University of Delaware would be scrutinized.