Administrators at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee are working to reassure students and the public after six rainbow-colored nooses were found hanging from a tree on campus Monday. According to school officials, the rainbow-colored nooses that caused an uproar on campus were nothing more than a student art project The nooses had been found, arranged in a rainbow, hanging from a tree near the campus’s fine-arts building and were part of an introductory class that teaches the creation of art using yarn, reports The Washington Post.
The rainbow-colored nooses caused several complaints on the university campus when they were spotted hanging from a tree near the Trahern fine arts building on Monday evening around 5 p.m. According to reports, campus officers removed the rainbow-colored nooses following the complaints “out of concern of hate symbolism and its potential impact to the campus.”
— Carolyn Cerbin (@carolyncerbin) April 19, 2016
The University President spoke out on the incident of the rainbow-colored nooses in a statement. Alisa White was careful to mention that the university supports freedom of expression but added that the situation regarding the rainbow-colored nooses could be used as a lesson in sensitivity, respect, and inclusion.
“While we support the freedom of expression on our campus, we also have to keep in mind that there are symbols that have very specific and negative meanings to everyone, especially if context is not provided. Therefore the artwork was inappropriate and had to be removed for the safety of our campus.”
“I am deeply sorry for the impact this has had on our campus community and we will learn from this and ensure something like this does not happen again.”
White went on to call the so-called “artistic” display of the six rainbow-colored nooses “hurtful” and “deeply disturbing,” saying that no matter the artistic intent behind the display, it had no place at Austin Peay State University, telling students, faculty, and staff that she was “saddened” by the rainbow-colored nooses, and that such displays “will not be tolerated.”
In response, some took to social media to defend the rainbow-colored nooses on display on campus, saying that it was never intended to be “malicious” or threatening but rather intended to bring attention to the high number of suicides in the LGBT community. One unnamed student said that the rainbow-colored noose display was a project for an into sculpture class, and it had been approved by the class’ professor.
According to university officials, the student hadn’t disclosed the plan to “make a statement about social issues,” adding that the professor hadn’t given approval for the “final display” of rainbow-colored nooses.
Also, the student artist failed to include an artist’s explanation regarding the rainbow nooses.
“The student was sincerely concerned about the perception of and reaction to the display and was apologetic for the issues it caused.”
This isn’t the first time in recent year a U.S. university has dealt with an incident regarding nooses. In 2014, two University of Mississippi students pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights crime after hanging a noose around the neck of a statue. The statue in question happened to be of James Meredith, U of M’s first black student.
Duke University faced a similar issue just last year when a noose was found hanging from a tree near the student Union. University officials investigated the incident, ultimately choosing not to expel the student responsible, saying that he showed “ignorance and bad judgement” instead.
Some African American Duke students felt that the culprit was treated with too much leniency.
While the rainb0w-colored nooses have been described as an art piece representing suicides in the LGBT community, members of the school’s NAACP chapter didn’t see the six nooses hanging from a tree branch at a southern university that way at all. They posted an Instagram pic calling out the nooses and presumably tying the display to southern racism.
Between 1877 and 1950, almost 4,000 people across a dozen southern states, including Tennessee were victims of racially-motivated lynchings.
Despite the outcry, at least one Facebook user thought that the rainbow-colored nooses represented what art is all about.
“As an actual lesbian, I’m going to say this: If the piece truly was about suicides in LGBT community, than (sic) it was a spectacular piece. It needs to have attention, not just small articles here and there. Suicides in the LGBT community is an epidemic.”
So, what do you think? Do you think that the rainbow-colored nooses crossed the line, or were they simply artistic expression?