APSU: Nooses On Campus Part Of Art Project

Posted at 12:46 PM, Apr 19, 2016

Just hours after a photo was uploaded to social media purportedly showing six nooses hanging from a tree at Austin Peay State University, the incident was revealed to be part of a student's art display, school officials said. 

The APSU Police Department was called out after six nooses of different colors were found, arranged in the color of a rainbow and hanging from a tree. The discovery was made around 5 p.m. Monday. It caused a stir on social media after a photo was uploaded to Instagram.  


So this is at #APSU

A photo posted by NAACP Of APSU (@naacp.apsu) on

According to a release from the school, the display was a student's artwork as part of an introductory course that focused on yarn as a medium for creating art. 

The project had reportedly not been reviewed or approved by the instructor, nor was it the artist’s statement provided to explain its purpose.

School officials said the student claimed that any negative statement regarding LGBQT or racially-related social issues was not intended.  

The student was apparently apologetic and was concerned about the perception and reaction to the display. 

School officials released the student's full statement, read during a meeting Tuesday about the incident. Their identity was not released. 

"My intention with my sculpture project was to address the cycle of death and rebirth that is represented by the arrival of spring. I had no social or political statements in mind. I did not take into consideration that nooses are a racially charged symbol, for that I am sorry. I can not apologize enough for the pain that my art work has caused, it was certainly not my intention. I am thankful that APSU Campus Police removed the art work when it was clear that it was causing so much pain."

While reportedly unintended, several students were upset. 
“As a black man seeing a noose, I could see myself in the noose hanging from the tree and that’s not a settling feeling. I don’t want to feel like I’m not safe to go to class because I might be lynched by a person of another race on this campus,” said student, Rueben Harris. 

The school said both the student and teacher were supportive of its removal out of concern for the display being perceived as a hate symbol. 

An open forum to address the issue was scheduled for 1 p.m. in the Morgan University Center Ballroom.

PSU President Alisa White said in a statement: 

“This is a lesson for everyone about sensitivity and respect for all people and how inclusive and understanding we need to be as a campus community.

While we support the freedom of expression on our campus, we also have to keep in mind that there are symbols that have very specific and negative meanings to everyone, especially if context is not provided. Therefore the artwork was inappropriate and had to be removed for the safety of our campus. I am deeply sorry for the impact this has had on our campus community and we will learn from this and ensure something like this does not happen again.”

White said it was unfortunate the student did not know the project could be viewed as a hate symbol. 

“Frankly I was shocked and I was saddened and I was heart sick, just literally sick to my stomach,” she said. “It’s incredibly unfortunate that the student artist did not understand the significance and the implication of a symbol that represents so much negative for so many people."
University officials announced Tuesday evening that the FBI would no longer be investigating the incident, and no charges were expected to be filed. The student was not expected to be disciplined.  
Administrators hoped the incident would serve as a lesson learned.