A noose hanging from a large bush in front of an undergraduate theme house at Stanford University thrust the campus into a massive scene of racial unrest in mid-July after it was reported as a hate crime, but a subsequent investigation uncovered the rope had likely been dangling there for at least five months and may have been used to hang ornaments.
The investigation is still ongoing, but it appears the latest incident of an allegedly racist noose sighting may have been nothing more than an instance of materials used for decorative ornaments.
The Stanford Department of Public Safety during its probe found images of the same large bush with what looks to be the same rope hung from it that date back to March using Google Maps and an old Stanford Daily photo.
What’s more, students staying in the house over the summer told officers when they saw the rope as they moved in they simply figured it was meant “to hang ornaments or objects.”
“Subsequent interviews with persons responsible for providing landscaping services in the area have stated that the rope had been hanging in the bush for months prior to July 12, 2019,” according to campus police.
What started the racial unrest began July 12, when medical student Cheron Perkins, who at the time was working as a camp counselor with students interested in medicine and staying at the Stanford residence, reported the noose. She told police she had never seen it before that day and believed it had “been tied to the bush sometime between 8:30 a.m. and 11:15 p.m. on July 12.”
Perkins told a local news station that the response to her complaint by the Stanford Department of Public Safety “just didn’t sit well” with her and that she was “very uncomfortable about the whole situation.”
That was just the beginning.
Students and faculty quickly signed on to an open letter blasting Stanford administrators for their “boilerplate” response, which was full of “lifeless, robotic phrasing” and allegedly ignored the significance of the noose.
Next, three black student senators wrote up an “official statement” to The Stanford Daily in which they complained the noose was a threat to their “happiness, wellbeing, and existence.” A cadre of black student organizations also wrote a Daily op-ed in which they called the administration’s response “stress inducing, irresponsible, negligent, and deeply hurtful.”
In addition, the campus community held a rally and town hall, and a “self-care” event was made available.
However, according to a campus police investigation, a summary of which was issued July 26, several individuals countered Perkins’ claim she “was confident” the noose had not been there previously:
DPS interviewed individuals residing in the houses in the vicinity of the bush’s location that evening and into the morning of July 13. Some witnesses reported that the noose had been present in the bush for at least 2 weeks, which was 1 week prior to when residents who reported the noose moved into the Storey House […] Subsequent interviews with persons responsible for providing landscaping services in the area have stated that the rope had been hanging in the bush for months prior to July 12, 2019.
Those in the former group said they had wondered “about the purpose of the rope (“or some configuration of it” as the Stanford Daily put it) when they moved into their summer housing residence and had even discussed it,” and ultimately concluded that it was “most likely used by prior residents to hang ornaments or objects,” according to the police bulletin.
While The Daily reported on the Department of Public Safety’s findings the same day its report came out, it did not include this aspect of the witness testimony.
Stanford University Department of Public Safety spokesman Officer Bill Larson told The Fix the investigation remains active and that the July 26 bulletin is the only information released at this time.
The Stanford Media Relations Department did not respond to a Fix request for comment. However, shortly after DPS’ report was released, a “Notes from the Quad” blog post co-authored by Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne stated that “unfortunately, we continue to confront hateful actions in our community that are troubling and inconsistent with our values.”
Last month, The College Fix had discovered that Cheron Perkins, who reported the noose, is Facebook friends with someone of the same last name, a Clarke Perkins of Louisiana State University, who made news after reporting an alleged noose in 2015. A year later, Clarke had alleged someone hung a racially obscene ornament on her dorm door. She told The Fix the culprit was never found and said she and Cheron are not related nor are friends on Facebook. When shown proof of the latter, she replied “interesting, but there is no [family] relation.”
This Stanford case is very similar to one which transpired at the University of Delaware in 2015. The remnants of paper lanterns from an event were reported as nooses, leading to student and faculty outrage and sympathetic local media coverage. The truth did not dissuade some in the campus community; a gathering on UD’s Green featured students who rejected the results of the investigation: “The image and the idea that something like [the noose] was plausible on our campus was concerning,” said a UD alumnus.
IMAGE: Shutterstock.com, Stanford Dept. of Public Safety