University employees discovered a possible noose hanging in a locked utility area in the sub-basement of Healy Hall earlier this week, according to a message sent to the campus community by Vice President for University Safety Rocco Del Monaco and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson on Thursday evening.

The possible noose was accompanied by racist graffiti targeting members of the black community. The graffiti was discovered in other sub-basement areas adjacent to the Healy sub-basement. The areas are off-limits but can be accessed through underground utility tunnels.

After the possible noose was discovered and reported to the Department of Public Safety on Tuesday, DPS’s investigation found that the object could not have been used for legitimate purposes by personnel. DPS concluded that the graffiti had accumulated over time but that the rope was new.

“The possibility of this kind of symbol on our campus is deeply troubling and extremely serious. We must underscore that acts of vandalism, hate and intolerance have no place in our campus community,” DelMonaco and Olson said in their message.

University response to the incident has been swift. After sending the message, DelMonaco, Olson and Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny led a community meeting in Village C Alumni Lounge Thursday evening; about 35 administrators, faculty and students attended.

“Hanging nooses and racial slurs symbolize everything that we have worked so hard and came this far to destroy,” Carolyn Chambers (COL ’11), president of Georgetown’s chapter of the NAACP, said in an email message sent to the NAACP membership shortly after the broadcast message was sent to the university community. In her email, Chambers encouraged students to come to the meeting.

At the meeting, the administrators said that details of the incident were still unclear and that it is unknown whether the perpetrator was a student or an employee. The rationale behind the incident is also unknown, especially a s the possible noose was discovered in a location not frequented by students or employees. DPS’s investigation is ongoing, and the Metropolitan Police Department is also involved.

Olson said the administration is doing everything it can to address the problem, including creating rules and policies, sharing more information and emphasizing the importance of a culture of respect. Olson also said that the administration needs help from students, a sentiment that was echoed by students present.

“I think that administrative units that are designed to deal with these types of affairs are genuinely concerned about what is going on, but in a campus that functions very disparately in terms of different departments and student groups, it’s a very difficult task to permute the message,” Liani Balasuriya (COL ’11) said. “I hope that this incident motivates a more solidified attempt within different groups to address this as a single issue.”

Balasuriya also voiced concerns over a seeming complacency from students, as this is merely the latest in a string of bias-related incidents. Last month, several whiteboards in New South Hall and Darnall Hall were defaced with drawings of swastikas and the name “Hitler.” Two incidents featuring Nazi graffiti also occurred in spring 2009.

“[Because there have been multiple incidents], people are feeling numb,” Shiva Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, said.”

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