The rope found hanging in a tree in Magnolia Apartments Jan. 30 was originally used as a swing, residents of the apartments said Monday night. The information came to light at a meeting designed so students could voice their concerns about the discovery.
On Jan. 25, a resident assistant from Magnolia, who wished to remain anonymous, said students had tied the top of the rope onto the limb of the tree and had fastened the bottom to a wooden board, which they used as a swing.
The RA requested that the students remove the swing, which they did, but the rope remained.
After the meeting, police chief Pat Johnson said UP was interviewing students who knew the origins behind the rope but would not comment specifically on the investigation.
Despite the revelation of the rope’s origins, many students still believe the rope was a symbol aimed maliciously at blacks — a symbol that harkens back to public lynchings of Civil War era America.
One student said the discovery shouldn’t come as a surprise: It’s Black Emphasis Month at USF, and during last year’s February celebration the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial bust outside the Phyllis P. Marshall Center was vandalized.
Another student pointed to geography: It’s the South, and racism shouldn’t come as a surprise, he said.
Another student said he thinks the whole incident is being blown out of proportion.
Junior Wayne Wright, a resident of Magnolia, said he was disgusted when he saw the noose, but he wasn’t necessarily surprised, either. In late December, he said, he witnessed a late-night argument between a white male and a black female in the complex. Following the discourse, Wright said, the male told the female to shut up or “I’ll hang you like I hung your mother.”
Upon returning for the spring semester, Wright said flyers promoting racial tolerance began appearing in the halls of Magnolia, which signaled to him, he said, that his experience in December wasn’t isolated.
Freshman Magnolia resident Timothy McFarlane said he has seen his share of racism in the complex, from interracial fights in the courtyards to white males using the n-word loudly in the residents’ parking lot.
And he’s positive the rope — though it may have originally been used for a swing — was fashioned into a noose for a reason.
“I know it’s a noose,” he said. “I stood out in the rain with it until the cops came.”
The meeting was moderated by Nicole West, coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Activities, and Dyone Butler, Greek Community Coordinator. More than 80 students, mostly Magnolia residents, attended and many had to stand for the meeting, which lasted well over an hour.
Also in attendance were Harold Nixon, vice president of student affairs, Wilma Henry, associate vice president of student life and wellness and Tom Kane, director of residence services. Officials from USF’s Counseling Center were also on hand.
Black Student Union president Esque Dollar, who has been extremely vocal during the past few days about catching and punishing the perpetrator or perpetrators, also spoke. He reiterated that in order for acts of racism to stop, the administration should make an example out of those responsible.
Leo Castro, editor of the Africana Studies Club publication The Southern Griot, said he agreed with Dollar in that a stern punishment should be administered. Castro said criminal charges might be too extreme, but he would support expulsion.
When asked whether a demonstration such as a noose in a tree should be protected as free speech, he said it was difficult to answer definitively.
“It’s touchy,” Castro said. “Where do you draw the line?”
For Wright, who said he grew up near an Alabama plantation and was accustomed to racism, his experience in his first two semesters in Magnolia has left a sour taste in his mouth.
“Magnolia is a rich ghetto,” he said. “They make us pay extra money for all this drama. I can’t wait to move off campus.”