The president of Lipscomb University, a predominantly white private university in Nashville, Tennessee, invited a group of African-American students to his home for dinner last week.
The gathering was meant to be an opportunity for the students to openly discuss their experiences at the school.
However, that plan went awry as the students were offended by the cotton stalk centerpieces used to decorate the tables at the dinner.
President Randy Lowry released an apology to the students Friday, via Facebook, according to The Tennessean.
One of the students at the dinner posted an account of the event on Instagram.
The student wrote that a fellow student asked the president why there was cotton on the table, and Lowry responded that he thought it was a "fall-ish" decoration. Lowry then allegedly told the student "it isn't inherently bad if we're all wearing it."
In addition to the decor, some students were upset by the food served.
Photos of the event show that attendees were served a meal that included cornbread, macaroni and cheese and collard greens. Nakayla, the student who posted to Instagram, referred to the repast as a "black meal," and alleges that the president served Latinx students invited to his home tacos.
So I attend Lipscomb university and as most of you know that is a predominately white school. Tonight AFRICAN AMERICAN students were invited to have dinner with the president of the school. As we arrived to the president's home and proceeded to go in we seen cotton as the center pieces. We also stood and ate dinner, there were no seats to sit in and it felt very uncomfortable. We were very offended, and also the meals that were provided resembled many "black meals" they had mac n cheese, collard greens, corn bread etc. The night before Latinos also had dinner at his house and they had tacos. They also DIDN'T have the center piece that we HAD tonight. A couple of minutes went by, the president was coming around and asking for our names and what our major was. He finally got to our table and my friend @kay_cyann asked why there was cotton on the table as the center piece. His response was that he didn't know, he seen it before we did, he kind of thought it was " fallish", THEN he said " it ISNT INHERENTLY BAD IF WERE ALL WEARING IT " then walked off. Later on all of us that were there were invited into the home, and we had the impression that we were coming to speak about how us as Black people feel about Lipscomb. The whole entire time we were in their home they only talked about themselves( how they met, got married and ended up at lipscomb) & the ONLY question that we were asked was our transformation coming to lipscomb. A couple of women answered the question but they sugar coated it. They said any other questions that we may have can be emailed to the advocate for the Latinos and that a second meeting may be held. Also we don't have an advocate on campus, the only African American advocate we had, no longer works here. The only advocate available to us is the advocate for the Latinos. They claim to have funding for minorities, BUT you have to live up to the expectations of a typical Black family to even get the 1000$.There is NO FUNDING for just us black students. #share
A debate on whether cotton used as decoration is offensive has whipped up on social media:
Breaking News: Lipscomb Univ has banned Tylenol in bottles b/c they fear picking the cotton from the bottle may represent racism & slavery! https://t.co/uWx2rLfKgT— #1 Trump Fan (@WeSupportTrump3) September 18, 2017
The whole cotton controversy at Lipscomb is... interesting, especially since I have a similar centerpiece lol. Mine looks better tho.— Jessica (@WhoIsJayda) September 18, 2017
We have to purge our universities of idiots who would apologize for cotton being offensive.https://t.co/d3UaEyUn2Y— Phil Valentine (@ValentineShow) September 16, 2017
In Lowry's apology, he stated that if his students are willing, he is open to engaging in more conversations.