Stanford University is investigating an incident of a noose being found near a campus residence where a group of largely minority high school students were staying for a summer program.
The university said its public safety department found a white rope, about three feet long with a loop at one end, suspended from a tall bush near a residence for the summer students.
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Counselors for the summer program told NBC Bay Area they discovered the noose Friday night and reported it to the public safety department.
Cheron Perkins, a medical student from New Orleans working as an adviser to high school students in the program, took a photo of the noose, according to NBC Bay Area. She told the station the sight alone was frightening.
"My immediate thought was nothing but fear because I'd never seen a noose," Perkins said. "I was just distraught."
She said many of those involved with her summer program are minorities, and she felt the noose was a message to them.
The incident is being investigated as a "suspicious circumstance," but if additional evidence is found, it may be reclassified as a hate crime, according to a statement from Stanford.
"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 statement said. "Such a symbol has no place on our campus."
The university said its Acts of Intolerance Office, which addresses situations involving bigotry reported by campus community members, has been notified and is responding to the incident.