Sep 25, 2008 NEWBERG, Ore. Officials at George Fox University say a life-size cardboard reproduction of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was hung from a tree on the campus, an act with racial undertones that outraged students and school leaders alike.
President Robin Baker said a custodian discovered the effigy early Tuesday and removed it. University spokesman Rob Felton said Wednesday that the commercially produced reproduction had been suspended from the branch of a tree with fishing line around the neck.
Taped to the cardboard cutout of the black senator from Illinois was a message targeting participants in Act Six, a scholarship program geared toward increasing the number of minority and low-income students at several Christian colleges, mostly in the Northwest.
The message read, "Act Six reject."
The disturbing image recalled the days of lynchings of blacks, and was all the more incongruous at a university founded by Quaker pioneers in 1891. Felton said he had been at the school since he enrolled two decades ago, and "I've never experienced or heard of any type of overt racial act." He said the school doesn't believe students are in jeopardy.
At the end of the college's regular chapel service Wednesday morning, Baker told students he was "disheartened and outraged."
"It has been my dream to establish a university that more adequately represents the kingdom of God," he said. "This act causes some to question our commitment."
"What I've learned is we still have work to do," he said.
The school has 17 students in the program, whose name derives from the New Testament book of Acts. Felton said 16 are members of minority groups.
Students in the program receive full scholarships, according to school officials, and they are selected based on their leadership potential.
Several students in the program said they were angry but did not feel threatened.
"To me, I just felt like they weren't ready to have a black person be president," said Courtney Greenidge, a sophomore from Clackamas. "We're trying to bring change. Obama's trying to bring change." She described herself, like Obama, as biracial, half black, half white.
She also said that overall the campus has a welcoming and positive environment, but she has heard comments along the lines of, "Oh, I wish I was black. Then I could get a scholarship like that."
Felton said few people saw the effigy, which was near Minthorn Hall near the heart of the campus, known as the Quad.
Sgt. Tim Weaver of the Newberg Police Department said officials are working with the university to find out who was responsible. He also said the police department has notified the U.S. Secret Service, although it's not clear yet whether the act was a crime.
"It doesn't fit as a hate crime and it doesn't fit in as intimidation, necessarily," he said. "If it's not a crime, we're not going to be involved."
Brad Lau, a university vice president, said school officials have been questioning students to find out who was responsible. He and other school officials wouldn't say what action it might take.
George Fox University was founded in 1891 by Quaker pioneers. Its campus is in Newberg in the Willamette Valley south of Portland. About 1,800 students are enrolled. It also has centers in Portland, Salem and Boise, Idaho.
Felton said that about 2 percent of the students are black and about a quarter of the freshman class are members of minority groups. That number includes international students, largely from Asia and Africa.
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