Marcelo Lund, a sophomore at the Claremont Colleges, was surprised to see nearly 200 students, faculty and staff turn out for a march Friday supporting him and denouncing a cross-burning that took place on campus in January.
Four students had stolen the 11-foot-long metal cross that he designed and built for an art class and had burned it in front of a dormitory.
Jacqueline DuBose, a senior and member of the Student Liberation and Action Movement, a campus group that organized the march, said the Jan. 9 cross-burning outraged the student body.
"It's something that we will not tolerate on campus," she said.
Lund, 21, said he had returned to school from the winter break to discover the cross missing from the courtyard in front of his dormitory at Pomona College. He sent an e-mail asking if anyone knew where it was, and got a response from Matthew Taylor, a dean, describing what had happened.
"It was hard to believe at first," Lund said. "It was a horrible thing that they did on so many levels.... It totally twisted the original meaning of the cross."
The cross had been set afire in front of a dormitory at Harvey Mudd College.
After the school began an investigation, four students turned themselves in, said Randy Ringen, a spokesman for Harvey Mudd.
School officials did not call police, Ringen said, because they didn't consider it a hate crime. The four students claimed they didn't know the anti-black racist symbolism of cross-burning, he said.
Ringen said that the investigation is continuing, and that the students could face discipline, including expulsion. Their names were not released, but two attend Harvey Mudd, one attends Claremont McKenna and the fourth goes to Scripps -- all part of the Claremont Colleges.
Though the incident happened over winter break, the Pomona College student body was not formally notified until Jan. 28, a week after classes resumed. DuBose said she would have appreciated a swifter, angrier response from the administration.
"Something needs to be done so something like this never happens again," she said.
Harvey Mudd President Jon C. Strauss said that he was glad the students organized the event to express their frustration and that he understood DuBose's sentiment.
"In retrospect, we should have announced it sooner," he said. Strauss said the administration did not intend to hide the incident from students, as some rumors had suggested.
Lund said he appreciated the show of support. He has asked for the remains of the sculpture, but school officials told him they had been disposed of.