On Monday, junior law and society major Taylor Dumpson took office as the first black female to be elected president of student government at American University in Washington D.C.
That same day, bananas hanging from nooses appeared outside of her predominantly African American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, or AKA. The words "AKA Free" and "Harambe Bait"—a reference to the gorilla that was contentiously shot last year at Cincinnati Zoo—were scrawled over the bananas in what appeared to be black marker.
In response, Fanta Aw, the Interim Vice President of Campus Life, sent a statement to the university community saying that the bananas were found in three places on campus, and that these "racist, hateful messages have no place in our community."
President Neil Kerwin also released a statement, declaring that this "crude and racially insensitive act of bigotry" was under investigation."
According to the New York Times, the investigation is being aided not only by the local police force but also by the FBI. The university set up meetings with students to discuss the incident, and is offering a $1000 reward for anyone who has information that could help them identify the suspect. They also released a video that appears to show the subject, who appears to be a white man dressed in black pants and a black long-sleeve shirt, committing the hate crime in the middle of the night.
Despite these efforts, students at American University have complained that the college is not doing enough to quash bigotry on campus, particularly since there have been two other banana-related incidents just in this school year. In September, a banana was left on the door of a black woman's dorm room, and a rotten banana was tossed at another woman of color.
As such, students on campus protested the racist incident on Tuesday, marching in solidarity while waving withdrawal forms.
"There's a lack of genuine passion about racial issues that happen on campus," Sydney Jones, 19, who heads the NAACP student chapter at American University, told the New York Times. "A hate crime is something extremely serious."