SAN DIEGO — Student protesters have taken over the offices of University of California San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox as a third racially charged episode has brought a new wave of outrage.
Students are protesting atop desks and countertops throughout Fox's suite, except for her own sanctum. They are chanting, "Real pain, real change." Some are playing drums.
Fox has twice addressed students today, once outside the library where a noose was found last night and once in a eucalyptus grove outside her office. Students remain upset with the pace of the administration's response to their demand for action over ongoing racial strife.
"You can't imagine how pained we are, we are heartsick," Vice Chancellor Penny Rue told the students on a bullhorn.
Campus police are questioning a student who admitted she hung the noose on the seventh floor of the university library, on the west side of aisle three, which faces the windows.
"This is truly a dark day in the history of this university," Fox told students gathered earlier along Library Walk. "It's abhorrent and untenable."
The noose was found hanging from a bookcase of the Geisel Library at 10:30 p.m. last night, and the student called at 9 a.m. today to confess, according to vice chancellor Gary Mattews.
"It's someone who didn't think that leaving a noose was an issue," he said.
Authorities are classifying the crime as “hanging a noose with the intent to terrorize.”
At a morning rally, about 300 students and others gathered near the Price Center. Some speakers read poetry, while others made speeches. Many made heartfelt pleas for racial unity and also asked students not to respond in kind.
“This is something that matters. This is something that affects all of us," said sophomore Sharon Seegers.
Deirdre Vernon, who works on staff in policy and records administration, told the gathered students, “We are behind you and we support you 100 percent. You are loved, no matter what they hang, no matter what they burn.”
Melanie Leon, a junior studying political science who transferred to UCSD this year, said she saw a picture of the noose Friday night in a text message sent to someone at a student meeting she attended.
“I was very upset. I asked campus police to escort me to my car. It is a really awful experience to be threatened on your own campus,” Leon said.
Leon, who is Latina, said she feels threatened and fearful because of the racial tensions on campus.
“I’m in awe that people can be so hurtful and so vicious,” she said. “I don’t know if that is their idea of a joke or not, but those of us that are being affected by this, we take this very seriously.”
The racial turmoil was sparked by an off-campus party Feb. 15, dubbed the “Compton Cookout,” that mocked Black History Month, and by a subsequent show on a student-run TV station that supported the party and called blacks ungrateful, using a racial slur. A piece of cardboard was found at the TV studio with "Compton lynching" written on it.
Minority students on campus declared a racial “state of emergency” on Feb. 19 and met with campus administrators. They presented four pages of demands, most of which targeted improving the racial climate on campus. One demand was for a safe haven on campus for blacks who feel threatened or intimidated.
On Wednesday, members of the Black Student Union and their supporters walked out of an administration-organized teach-in at the Price Center focused on combating institutional racism. The students also staged a roving protest.
African-Americans make up less than 2 percent of undergraduates on the La Jolla campus.
Police are questioning other witnesses, in addition to the student who came forward. They asked anyone with information to call (858) 534-4359 or e-mail email@example.com.
Staff writer Karen Kucher contributed to this report