(AP) A University of Illinois student was charged with a hate crime on Tuesday for allegedly placing a noose in a campus residence hall.
Andrew Smith, a 19-year-old sophomore, was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and committing a hate crime, which is a felony, after students found a noose hanging inside an elevator over the weekend, according to university police.
News of the finding began to make rounds on social media as students expressed their outrage. That’s when a woman who said she was with Smith when he tied the noose reportedly called campus police to report him.
“Our mission at the University Police Department is to maintain a safe and secure environment where our campus community members feel supported and successful,” Executive Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Craig Stone said in a statement. “We do not tolerate incidents that are perceived by others to be a threat to their safety, and we will always respond quickly to identify offenders and hold them accountable for those actions.”
Smith pleaded not guilty and was released on $5,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for October 22.
The story caught the attention of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, who said he was “glad swift action was taken.”
“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. “Hate has no place in Illinois or in its educational institutions, and I’m glad swift action was taken to address this incident.”
The arrest comes as the university battles accusations of racial harassment in a federal lawsuit filed by three black employees.
The lawsuit, filed in January, claims the employees were “exposed to threats of racial violence, such as nooses, swastikas, KKK garb, racist graffiti, and confederate flags.”
In January, University of Illinois spokesperson Robin Kaler told Illinois Public Media, “Discrimination of any kind has no place at the University of Illinois. We will review any allegations or claims with counsel as soon as we receive them.”