Officials of a small Christian university say a life-size cardboard reproduction of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was hung from a tree on the campus, an act with racial undertones that outraged students and school leaders alike.
George Fox University President Robin Baker said a custodian discovered the effigy early Tuesday and removed it. University spokesman Rob Felton said Wednesday that the commercially produced reproduction had been suspended from the branch of a tree with fishing line around the neck.
Taped to the cardboard cutout of the black senator from Illinois was a message targeting participants in Act Six, a scholarship program geared toward increasing the number of minority and low-income students at several Christian colleges, mostly in the Northwest.
The message read, “Act Six reject.”
The disturbing image found near the heart of the campus recalled the days of lynchings of blacks and was all the more incongruous at a university founded by Quaker pioneers in 1891. Felton said he had been at the school since he enrolled two decades ago, and “I’ve never experienced or heard of any type of overt racial act.”
Newberg police Sgt. Tim Weaver said officials are working with the university to find out who was responsible. He also said the police department has notified the U.S. Secret Service, although it’s not clear yet whether the act was a crime.
“It doesn’t fit as a hate crime and it doesn’t fit in as intimidation, necessarily,” he said. “If it’s not a crime, we’re not going to be involved.”
Brad Lau, a university vice president, said school officials have been questioning students to find out who was responsible. He and other school officials wouldn’t say what action it might take.
The school has 17 students in the Act Six program, whose name derives from the New Testament book of Acts. All but one are members of minority groups, Felton said.
Students in the program receive full scholarships and are selected on the basis of leadership potential.