A student at the University of California, San Diego admitted hanging a noose in the school library less than two weeks after an off-campus party mocking Black History Month ignited racial tensions, authorities said Friday.
The discovery prompted a rally at the school already roiling with resentment over perceived intolerance.
The noose was found dangling from a light fixture on the seventh floor of Geisel Library on Thursday night, authorities said. A University of California statement said a student admitted she and two other people were responsible. The statement did not identify the students or their race or include a motive.
UC and campus authorities did not indicate whether the students would be charged with a hate crime. Under state law, hanging a noose to terrorize is punishable by up to a year in jail.
"Whatever the intent of the authors of this act, it was a despicable expression of racial hatred, and we are outraged," the UC statement said. "It has no place in civilized society, and it will not be tolerated."
To blacks, a noose recalls the days of widespread racism and lynchings.
Hundreds of students rallied for several hours outside the university administration building, where speakers denounced the noose as an example of intolerance on the campus where blacks comprise less than 2 percent of the student body.
"How am I supposed to walk into that building? How am I ever going to be safe there?" said ethnic studies major Cheyenne Stevens, who is black.
Mustafa Shahryar, 21, said he had seen the noose as he left the library.
Shahryar, who is from Afghanistan, told the crowd he grew accustomed to racial slurs while growing up in Southern California but was stunned to see the noose.
"Nothing phased me until last night," he said. "I just took that noose as an attack on all of us."
The school has been in turmoil over an off-campus "Compton Cookout" party organized by some students that urged people to dress as ghetto stereotypes and promised there would be chicken, watermelon and malt liquor.
Chancellor Marye Anne Fox condemned the party, and the school began an investigation to determine if any students might face discipline. The school also initiated a campus-wide "Battle Hate" campaign.
Campus administrators held a "teach-in" against intolerance on Wednesday. the same day hundreds of students from UCSD and other universities staged a campus protest, demanding that officials make more efforts to combat racism.
Some students countered that the reaction to the party had been overblown. Others accused the campus Black Student Union of using it to push demands for more black professors and funding for ethnic studies.
Last week, the Associated Students president pulled funding from a student-run TV station after The Koala — a campus media outlet with a reputation for being offensive — came out in support of the party, called black students ungrateful and used a derogatory term for African-Americans during a program.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.