Duke University launched an investigation after a noose was found hanging from a tree on campus early Wednesday morning.
The noose was reported on Duke's Bryan Center plaza around 2 a.m., according to a statement from the school. The thin yellow rope was removed after police were called.
"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," Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Moneta said in a statement. "Today, fear will be among the reactions students, and especially, students of color, will have. Be assured that the Duke community will provide all the support necessary to help us all get through this."
Moneta pledged to hold the responsible person fully accountable.
The incident at Duke comes at a time of heightened tensions on the Durham, North Carolina campus. Last week, a black freshman student alleged a group of white male students harassed her with racial slurs, including the racist song sung by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers at the University of Oklahoma.
"To the cowards of Duke University, we are not afraid. We stand together," Jamal Edwards, a junior and the president of the Duke Black Students Association, told The Huffington Post.
The BSA organized a 300-strong march across campus, culminating at the tree where the noose was hung. Edwards says they nailed up a sign reading those same words.
"Many people were crying. I was crying myself," he said.
The Duke People of Color Caucus, an anonymous student collective, called the noose an act of "racial terror." In a statement, they claim it proves Duke is a "hostile environment for any and all black people."
University officials held a forum at 5 p.m. at Duke Chapel with President Richard Brodhead, Provost Sally Kornbluth, and faculty and student leaders.
"Our campus has been jolted over the past few weeks by several racial incidents... The two of us, along with students and faculty, will give voice to our concerns and show the community that can come together at this challenging time," Brodhead and Kornbluth said in an email to the university community.
The person responsible for the noose could face serious jail time if caught. Last week, a former University of Mississippi student was indicted on two civil rights charges for hanging a noose and Confederate flag on the statue of the university's first black student. He faces up to eleven years in prison, according to The Grio.