The University of South Alabama has found itself in the middle of a racial controversy after a noose was seen hanging from a tree outside the campus dining hall, but the dining hall’s response has even more people upset.
Shortly after 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening, Twitter users began sharing pictures showing a bicycle and a noose hanging from the tree outside the dining hall – many pointing out the racial connotations.
According to USA spokesman Bob Lowry, campus police investigated the reported incident but never saw any noose.
University President Tony Waldrop echoed the same sentiment in a statement released earlier today.
“Although the photo sent to USAPD appeared to show a noose, there was no noose at the time officers responded to the scene,” Waldrop said in a written statement. “According to USAPD, it appeared to officers the rope had held up a banner that was no longer there.”
He said police learned Wednesday the tree had held a “sheet sign” the day before, which Waldrop said are used throughout campus to advertise upcoming major events like homecoming or recreational activities.
“Please be assured that your University’s leadership does not condone any symbols or activities that promote hatred or intolerance,” Waldrop said. “If any member of the USA community experiences such actions, I encourage you to contact a faculty or staff member, the Dean of Students office or University police.”
However, there’s still been no indication of campus police determining the source of the noose seen in the circulating photos, and the online backlash against USA has been further fueled by a Tweet USA Dining — “the Official Twitter for USA Dining” — sent out Wednesday morning.
“The rope outside of the caf last night was just a sign that our food is KILLER!,” the since-deleted Tweet read. “Come get some fried chicken and tell us any different! #friedchickenWednesday.”
The Tweet has been viewed by many is unprofessional and inappropriate for the situation, while others have suggested the post is flat-out racist. One user wrote: “Delete this now. Are you kidding me?,” to which USA Dining replied, “It’s been checked out by usapd, and we trust them.”
The statement released by Waldrop did not address USA Dining’s response to the incident on Twitter, but the official University of South Alabama Twitter account has responded to several posts online suggesting the USA Dining account is run by an employee of a third-party contractor and not the university itself.
“USA is aware of the post from the USA Dining account. That account is managed by an employee of Aramark, a vendor,” the response reads. “USA deeply regrets the offensive post and immediately contacted Aramark to address the situation. The post has been removed.”
Aramark is contracted to provide catering and dining services for USA and is responsible for managing the USA Dining twitting account.
In a statement from a media relations employee at Aramark’s corporate headquarters, the company said: “We apologize to the entire USA community for the insensitive and offensive actions of one of our dining employees.”
“The employee was terminated immediately, and we are re-training all of our dining employees to ensure an incident like this never happens again,” the statement continues.
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