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Student Charged With Tying Noose In U Of I Dorm Elevator Amid More Complaints About Racism On Campus

URBANA, Ill. (CBS) — A noose found hanging in a residence hall elevator is the latest incident raising red flags about racism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A student has been charged in that case. But as CBS 2's Dana Kozlov reported Tuesday, it follows a federal lawsuit alleging that the university often looks the other way when it comes to racial harassment.

Staffers said they found the noose in the Allen Hall dorm last weekend. Andrew Smith, 19, is accused of hanging it there.

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith is charged with putting up a noose in an elevator at a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign dorm. (Credit: CBS 2)

In Champaign County court Tuesday, Smith was arraigned on charges of felony hate crime and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Smith has pleaded not guilty.

"It is no different what happened yesterday at Allen Hall, you know – it's been going on at the university for years," said Derrick Brown, who has worked in the U of I's facilities and services department. Brown is one of three employees behind a federal lawsuit filed against the U of I in January.

The lawsuit alleges racial harassment of university employees with no recourse.

In one case, Brown said, a white coworker "put a white rag over his head and he cut the eyes out of the rag, and he cut the mouth out, and put it his over his head. It looked like the KKK."

"It runs the gamut," said attorney Joshua Friedman.

Friedman said other examples are in the lawsuit. They include a noose left on a work room table, a swastika on a campus building, and a Confederate flag on a car parked outside the police station.

Friedman said the office responsible for investigating university racism complaints does not do so fairly.

"To my knowledge, (the Office of Access and Equity) has never concluded – not once – that an incident was racially motivated," he said.

Brown said that is the crux of the problem.

"Until they're made to hold people accountable, it's going to keep going on," he said.

On Tuesday night, Gov. J.B. Pritzker tweeted" "Hate has no place in Illinois or in its educational institutions, and I'm glad swift action was taken to address this incident."

A U of I representative could not be directly reached for comment, but is on record saying the university does not condone incidents of intolerance, bias, or prejudice.

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