Illinois College Student Charged With Hate Crime For Placing Noose on Campus

A student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been charged with a hate crime after allegedly placing a noose in a residence hall elevator.

Andrew M. Smith, 19, was arrested at 9:34 p.m. on September 2 after he was questioned by police at his residence hall on College Court in Urbana, university police said in a statement. Smith was charged with committing a hate crime and a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. The noose was found on September 1 in Allen Hall by residence hall staff.

“Our mission at the University Police Department is to maintain a safe and secure environment where our campus community members feel supported and successful,” said Executive Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Craig Stone in a statement. “We do not tolerate incidents that are perceived by others to be a threat to their safety, and we will always respond quickly to identify offenders and hold them accountable for those actions.”

Smith pleaded not guilty and was released on a $5,000 bond by the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, ABC News reported. He is scheduled to appear in court on October 22. University police said the investigation is still ongoing, and anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact the University of Illinois Police Department at 217-333-1216.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a statement on Twitter on September 3 that support is being offered to students at the university, and hate is not welcome in the state.

“Our university campuses welcome students from all backgrounds as they come together to learn from each other, to learn from their professors, and to learn how to build thriving communities,” Pritzker tweeted.

“Hate has no place in Illinois or in its educational institutions, and I’m glad swift action was taken to address this incident,” he added.

This is not the first noose that has been found on a college campus this year. In July, Stanford University officials launched an investigation after counselors from a summer camp found a noose hanging from a bush on campus.

Cheron Perkins, an advisor at the summer camp program and a medical student at the university, previously told KNTV that she had never seen anything like this before. Perkins also noted that most of the students attending the summer camp are high school students of color.

“My immediate thought was nothing but fear because I’d never seen a noose,” Perkins previously told the news station. “I was just distraught. I got on Southwest and started looking for a plane ticket.”

The university stated that it was investigating the noose as a “suspicious circumstance,” but that it could be reclassified as a hate crime pending the investigation, KRON reported. The noose was removed, and the university's Acts of Intolerance Protocol handled the incident.

“While we await further conclusions from the investigation, we feel it is important to state that a noose is recognized as a symbol of violence and racism directed against African American peoples,” the university’s previous statement to Mercury News read. “Such a symbol has no place on our campus.”

In May, a principal and four teachers at an elementary school in California were placed on leave after a photo of the educators posing and smiling with a noose circulated on social media. The photo was reportedly taken in a Summerwind Elementary School classroom in Palmdale, California, and was distributed by the elementary school’s principal, Linda Brandts, the Los Angeles Times previously reported.

The photo, reportedly taken by Brandts, shows four teachers smiling and pointing at a noose held by one of the educators. The photo was reportedly shared on social media without context or a caption. The photo sparked outrage and caused some parents to pull their children from school for a few days, the Antelope Valley Press previously reported.

Following the incident, Palmdale School District Superintendent Raul Maldonado wrote on the district’s Facebook page that the teachers and the principal were placed on administrative leave and an investigation was launched.

“I am appalled that this incident occurred. I am committed to the Palmdale Promise’s values of equity, integrity, and multiculturalism, and I know that most of the district believe in the same values the Promise upholds,” Maldonado previously wrote in the post, which has since been taken down from the Facebook page. “We will not allow the hurtful actions of a few hold back our district’s pledge to do right by our community.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.