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As administrators walk back ‘insufficient’ response, police reveal noose may have been on campus since March

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Two weeks after a sighting of a noose on campus sparked campus controversy, Stanford Public Safety believe that the 3-foot long rope recognized as a hate symbol may have been on campus for months, according to a report posted Friday.

The new information comes amid criticism of University administrators’ response to the incident, and one day after they held a solidarity rally and town hall. A self-care event is scheduled to take place Friday afternoon.

The student who initially reported the noose, spotted outside Columbae, was “confident” that it hadn’t been present before the morning of July 12, the report said. While investigators have received varying information regarding how long the noose had been hanging from the bush, the information collected seem to indicate that the rope — or some configuration of it — had been there before July 12.

Some summer residents living in neighboring Row houses who had seen the noose told investigators that the noose had likely been there for at least two weeks — one week before it was reported by a camp adviser living in Storey House.

Subsequent interviews with individuals in charge of landscaping services indicated that the rope might have been there for months prior. Police believe that a Google Maps street view screenshot, taken from April 2019, also shows the noose hanging from a bush at the intersection of Mayfield Avenue.

Investigators also believe they located the noose in a photo published in The Daily on March 13, indicating that the rope might have been there since the photo was taken. Investigators are still gathering information about the rope in the photograph, the report said.

Though investigators have not yet concluded whether the nooses’ hanging classifies as a hate crime, Vice Provost of Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole and DPS Chief Laura Wilson wrote in a Notes from the Quad post that a noose is widely recognized as a symbol of violence and racism against African Americans and other people of color. They added that it is a crime for an individual to hang a noose on a college campus with the intent of harming anyone associated with the institution.

“Such a symbol has no place on our campus,” Brubaker-Cole wrote in the announcement first acknowledging the incident.

But many saw the announcement, sent to the Stanford community five days after the rope was reported, as too little too late. 

In an open letter to University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell, over 100 signatories denounced Stanford’s response, juxtaposing it with a letter from Duke University administrators following a similar event on their campus. 

“Stanford fails to “appreciate” two things — the profound history of bigotry in this country, and the present political environment of the United States,” the letter read.

Tessier-Lavigne and Brubaker-Cole apologized for their “untimely and insufficient” response on Tuesday, writing that they failed to act quick enough or acknowledge the historical significance of the noose in their initial announcement. 

Two days later, over 200 community members gathered outside of Li Ka Shing Learning and Knowledge Center for a solidarity rally, despite Brubaker-Cole publicizing the event only a half hour before it began at 12 p.m. A base under the stairs to the second floor of LKSC served as a makeshift stage for speakers to address those gathered. 

Provost Persis Drell took the microphone, using her speech to express her willingness to listen. 

“The first thing I want to say is I came to listen,” Drell said. “Our university response on the issue last week was not good.” 

Student and faculty speakers shared a microphone for over half an hour.

Compared to an incident in November 2018 where a swastika was found etched on a piano lid in Bing Concert Hall, for which there was no university response, the three scheduled events mark a departure from how administration has handled similar reports in the past.

“I think different events get different reactions, but this was definitely something that our entire communities of color felt really threatened by,” Drell told The Daily at the event. 

The discovery of the noose is not the only “hateful” event to occur on campus in recent days. Stanford police are investigating “an anonymous, racially charged note” left last Sunday in a comment box at a residence for high school students.

A whiteboard left outside near Kingscote Gardens was also found Thursday afternoon covered in scribblings that “crudely wished violence on cities in the Middle East and Asia,” according to a Friday email from Tessier-Lavigne and Drell.

Stanford police believe they have identified the person responsible for the whiteboard drawings. The individual is not Stanford-affiliated, Tessier-Lavigne and Drell wrote, and has been given an order to stay away from campus.

On Thursday, students turned out to stand in solidarity with those affected by such recent events. The space under the stairs, the second floor balcony and the stairs themselves were filled with participants. 

“It’s so critical that we don’t remain silent when these incidents happen,” Associate Dean of Students Alejandro Martinez said. “To see this many people here on the ground, up on the second floor, it’s making a statement with their presence.”

Martinez also held a town hall with Counseling and Psychological Services staff the same day at 3 p.m. The self-care event will take place at 4 p.m. on Friday, at the Black Community Services Center. 

Contact Elena Shao at eshao98 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Elena Shao '21 is from Suwanee, Georgia. At The Daily, she is a Managing Editor for News. Outside, she's studying political science. She also enjoys learning foreign languages and is hoping to pursue a career as an investigative and data journalist. Contact her at eshao98 'at' stanford.edu.
Daniel Martinez-Krams '22 is a desk editor in the sports section. He is originally from Berkeley, California. Contact him at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.