Students and faculty on the American University campus in deep-blue Washington, D.C., couldn't believe their eyes Monday morning when they discovered bananas attached to strings that had been tied in the shape of nooses at three separate campus locations.
The racist stunt came on the first day in office for the university's first black female student government president, Taylor Dumpson, according to WJLA-TV. Dumpson is also a member of the majority black Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
A university memo indicated the bananas were marked with the letters "AKA," the acronym for Dumpson's sorority, and "Harambe," the name of the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla that was shot and killed in May 2016 after dragging a boy who had fallen into the cage.
The university memo also stated that photos of the racially charged memorabilia surfaced on social media that morning.
NEW: @AUPublicSafety investigating racist incident involving bananas hung from string around campus… https://t.co/v4O4geMlmN— The Eagle (@The Eagle)1493664293.0
"I am, like, very devastated, and very disgusted," Nadia Bowen, a sophomore at American University, reacted to WJLA.
Sydney Hamilton, who is also an AU sophomore, added, "It's almost the end of the semester, and yet things like this are happening."
Monday was the last day of classes at American University. Students are now taking their semester final exams.
"I shouldn't be in fear of my life, neither should other girls like me," Hamilton said.
Sophomore Andrew Fallone lamented that "we're supposed to be a safe place."
"We're a place for people to learn. This isn't a place for people to feel threatened, in any way shape or form," Fallone told WJLA.
As for the university's response, interim vice president of campus life Fanta Aw said, "the safety of our students is paramount" and that such racist, hateful messages "have no place in our community."
Dumpson also reacted, calling the stunt "disheartening and immensely frustrating."
"I implore all of us to unite in solidarity by this situation. ... We must show those in the community that bigotry, hate, and racism cannot, and will not be tolerated," Dumpson said.
Meanwhile, American University campus police are investigating the incident. So far, no one has claimed responsibility. It is not known whether a student or someone otherwise unaffiliated with AU is responsible for the act.
This isn't the first time American University has experienced incidents of racism.
As recently as September 2016, black students say someone threw bananas at them. Others claimed bananas were thrown at their dorm room doors or simply left on their dorm room door steps.
University officials said in September that the individuals responsible in at least one of those incidents had been "held accountable through the student conduct process," WJLA reported.