Three objects found hanging from a tree on the University of Delaware’s Green were not nooses or evidence of a hate crime as first suspected, school officials said Wednesday morning, but remnants of paper lanterns left from a June event.
Less than 24 hours later, members of the UD community packed The Green in front of Memorial Hall to discuss the incident and find ways to change the campus climate. The school’s interim president had initially called the incident a hate crime late Tuesday night
“Diversity isn’t something UD can say it’s already achieved because it hasn’t,” said sophomore Anima Agyeman at the Wednesday gathering. “You can’t fulfill a multicultural requirement with a history of fashion class . . . it’s about teaching an experience.”
One by one, students like Agyeman, along with top university officials of all races, took the stage to share harrowing experiences of how they were treated as minorities on and around campus. Agyeman fought through tears, recalling her first night on campus when she said a white man followed her back to her dorm, asking her how she could be “so f—— black.”
Acting UD President Nancy M. Targett announced the finding that the objects were lantern remnants in a statement and released photos of the original lanterns early Wednesday morning. The university said then that the lanterns were from an event in early September, but about 2 p.m., UD officials said they from Alumni Weekend in June.
But many students, including those who turned out for Wednesday night’s gathering planned by students and the university, dismissed the explanation and said the objects implied a bigger problem at UD–one that many say the university has failed to address.
Throughout the night, speakers and signs referenced the Black Lives Matter movement, which has sparked national attention in recent months. The chant–used to remind people that black lives matter just as much as white ones, students said–has become a rallying cry in the wake of black men repeatedly dying across the country at the hands of police.
The lantern remnants were discovered one day after a Black Lives Matter silent protest took place outside of a speaking event by Fox News commentator Katie Pavlich. Pavlich, who spoke about the second amendment and the right to bear arms, previously called the Black Lives Matter movement a “violent hate group.”
But no matter what the items were, change is coming, said Carol Henderson, the university’s vice provost of diversity.
She told the UD community Wednesday night that a diversity action plan is currently circulating among senior leadership and awaiting approval before beginning implementation.
“We hear you. We see you,” Henderson said, gesturing to the crowd. “We need to walk arm in arm with them and say ‘I am concerned because you are concerned.’ ”
She paused before continuing.
“It cuts to my soul that we have this kind of pain on campus,” she said, before noting that Tuesday’s incident and Wednesday’s outpouring have provided her with a new mantra.
“Not on our campus,” she said. “We are bigger than hate.”