UPDATED 10:15 p.m.
UF improvisational comedy group Theatre Strike Force released a statement Thursday night formally condemning the actions of the club’s member and stating it was not representative of the club’s values.
“The person responsible has issued a statement to the UFPD,” the group’s executive board wrote. “The organization was unaware of these actions until being informed today. We sincerely apologize if any students or faculty members were made to feel unsafe due to the actions of this individual.”
Diane McFarlin, the dean of the College of Journalism, also released a statement Thursday night, expanding on UF President Kent Fuchs’ email condemning the act.
“Although the noose was evidently an improv theater prop without racial intent, the stir it created was real and alarming,” McFarlin wrote in an email. “We are working very hard to provide a safe, secure and welcoming environment and have zero tolerance for threatening activity.”
A rope fashioned into a noose lay on the floor of a UF classroom for at least two hours Thursday, prompting UF President Kent Fuchs to condemn the act, which came just days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Students taking Principles of Advertising in Garnett Auditorium, Weimer 1064, saw the rope when they arrived before the 9:35 a.m. class began. One student estimated it was about 6 feet long.
Adviser Judy Hunter said she called police when she heard about the incident after class from the professor, Michael Weigold, and from a student. Weigold is white.
University Police then removed the rope from the auditorium. UPD is investigating the incident and has interviewed students from the class, UF spokesperson Janine Sikes said.
“The history of nooses certainly opens wounds for the black community,” Sikes said.
She said police are looking into allegations that Theatre Strike Force, a UF improvisational comedy group, left it in there. Sikes added that a member of the improv troupe admitted to fashioning the rope into a noose, but it is unknown as of press time if that member left it in the classroom.
The member, whose name has not been released, told police he made the noose as a symbol of how his semester was going.
Fuchs emailed students Thursday night about the noose, calling it a symbol of hate.
“While we do not know why the rope was placed there or the intention, recent reports indicate it may have been a prank,” Fuchs said. “Nonetheless, the shameful and deplorable history that nooses evoke opens wounds, particularly for members of the Black community.”
“Together, I hope our community will reject racism and violence in all forms and join together to make our university a welcoming place for everyone,” he added.
Victoria Camargo, a UF advertising sophomore, said she saw the rope when she arrived to class about 20 minutes before class began. She said she was one of the first people in class.
“I walked in there, and it was just kind of thrown on the floor,” the 20-year-old said. “I thought the professor was going to use it in class as an example or something.”