A University of Illinois math major may find himself adding up the years in prison if he’s found guilty of a felony hate crime charge for hanging a noose in a campus elevator.
A female friend reported Andrew Smith to police after authorities say he found a piece of rope, fashioned it into a noose, and then hung it in an elevator at a residence hall on the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Smith, 19, of Normal, Ill., was arrested Monday night and arraigned Tuesday on a felony hate crime charge and a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. He pleaded not guilty and was released on a $5,000 bond. His next court date was set for Oct. 22.
The university has been embroiled in a number of racially charged incidents of late, including a lawsuit brought by black employees earlier this year who said they had been subjected to racial slurs and threats, including nooses, Ku Klux Klan garb, racist graffiti and Confederate flags, according to the Tribune.
In this latest incident, students at Allen Hall found the noose in the elevator early Sunday.
Black students at the university expressed anger and said the university needed to get tougher on those who commit hate crimes and incidents of racial bias, WILL Illinois Public Media reports.
In a statement to WILL, the student organizations Black Students for Revolution and Black United Front demanded that the university regularly publicize all reported incidents of racism.
“We don’t want it hidden from the students, hidden from the campus,” Black Students for Revolution member Kayla Stewart told WILL. “We need to know about these things, we need to know about the kind of climate that students of color, specifically black students, are dealing with while they are on campus.”
Black Students for Revolution also called for the university to impose harsher penalties for racist acts, including expulsion for a minimum of two years.
“It’s just a question of: Is the university willing to protect and make black students feel comfortable and safe on campus?” Stewart said.
In a tweet Tuesday, Illinois Gov. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said hate had no place on campus and that he was glad swift action had been taken in the latest noose incident, tweeting, per the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Hate has no place in Illinois or in its educational institutions, and I’m glad swift action was taken to address this incident.”
“I’m committed to fighting intolerance and bigotry everywhere in our state and building a culture of learning at our universities that serves all students,” Pritzker said. “Support is being offered on campus for students who may wish to participate or attend community meetings to share their voices and experiences.”