Stanford’s president this week expressed support for a criminal investigation into an incident in which a noose was found on campus, despite the school knowing the rope made into the noose was left over from a theatrical production.
“A noose is a hateful representation of anti-Black racism and violence,” wrote President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in a statement to the Stanford community. “It is deeply disturbing that someone would choose to inflict this repugnant symbol on our community.”
Administrators are aware the ropes had been there for years. According to the Stanford “Protected Identity Harm Reporting” website, the ropes had been tied to a tree for a performance by a student organization.
But on May 8, it was discovered that one of the ropes had been made into a noose. It is unknown at this time who is responsible.
Tessier-Lavigne used the discovery of the noose to argue Stanford had not made satisfactory progress on issues of race.
“We are working in vigorous and committed ways to advance equity, inclusion, and belonging in our Stanford community,” he wrote in his statement. “We have been making progress. But incidents like this one show how far we still have to go.”
A spokesman for Stanford did not respond to a number of questions posed by The College Fix.
Tessier-Lavigne also expressed support for a criminal investigation into who tied the rope into a noose.
“If you have any information that would assist with the police investigation, I urge you to share it expeditiously with the Department of Public Safety,” he stated.
This isn’t Stanford’s first run-in with nooses on its grounds.
In 2019, a “noose” was found on Stanford’s campus, but it was later determined that it was most likely a rope used to hang ornaments.
In 2021, school officials alerted students to a number of “potential nooses” hanging on campus.
“Two cords with loops that may represent nooses” were discovered by a student during a trail walk, according to an email from Vice Provost for Institutional Equity, Access and Community Patrick Dunkley and Dean of Students Mona Hicks.
Dunkley and Hicks noted that while the cords might have been part of “abandoned swing or rope ladder,” they could not be certain “whether the ropes were deliberately fashioned in the shape of nooses.”
The school never disclosed whether the ropes were actually nooses.
In fact, nooses have become an issue on campuses across the country, with students regularly mistaking regular objects for nooses. The College Fix has documented at least eight incidents in which nooses found on campus turned out to be shoelaces, fishing knots, Halloween costumes, or just normal ropes.
Nevertheless, Stanford has set up a number of counseling opportunities for students who witnessed the rope.
“My heart aches for the members of our Black community who are experiencing a full range of emotions as a result of the appearance of this noose, including feeling targeted, fearful, or dismayed,” wrote Tessier-Lavigne. “I stand with you in rejecting hate and in stating that conduct of this kind has no place at Stanford.”
California has a law, passed in 2009, that criminalizes the act of hanging a noose in public or private spaces if it “terrorizes” another person. Simply hanging a noose is considered a “hate crime” punishable by jail time and fines.
But some legal experts have questioned whether California’s noose law is an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech.
“Punishing symbolic speech because of the message it communicates and the way people react to it necessarily raises free speech problems that need to be resolved,” wrote University of California, Davis Law Professor Alan Brownstein and UC Davis Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Vikram Amar before the law was enacted.
In analyzing prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions on hate crimes related to speech, Brownstein and Amar deemed the Court’s guidance “not entirely satisfying,” although based on one case challenging a city ordinance against “provocative” speech, they say the Court’s holding “suggested that a great many laws punishing unprotected speech might be vulnerable to constitutional challenge.”