President Randy Lowry issued a campus-wide apology for featuring cotton stalk centerpieces at a dinner for African-American students. The dinner was hosted at his home on Thursday evening.
One student attendee posted an Instagram photo of the centerpieces and a video of another student asking the university president why the tables were decorated with cotton.
“I have no idea,” Lowry said offscreen.
The dinner was intended to give African-American students at the university an opportunity to discuss their unique experiences on campus. Lipscomb’s campus is 77% white, according to the Office of Intercultural Development.
Assistant Dean and Director of Intercultural Development Lisa Steele said that the dinner was Lowry’s idea and that it has been in the works since Quest Week.
Steele was not immediately available for further comment.
Some students took issue with the menu, saying the buffet of barbecued chicken, collard greens and cornbread further played into African-American stereotypes. Hispanic students were served fajitas at a similar event on Wednesday evening.
“They were trying to make us comfortable, but it blew up in their face,” said LeBron Hill, a Lumination News reporter who attended the dinner. Hill said he didn’t believe Lowry was racist, but that the situation was “insensitive.”
“I thought it was ignorant,” Hill said.
The university does not currently have a Coordinator of African-American Student Services.
In his apology, emailed Friday, Lowry acknowledged that the centerpieces were “offensive” and that he “could have handled the situation with more sensitivity.”
“I sincerely apologize for the discomfort, anger or disappointment we caused and solicit your forgiveness,” Lowry said.
“I welcome the opportunity to continue this conversation,” the president added.
The president’s office was not immediately available for further comment.
Students are encouraged to contact Steele, or the Director of Admissions, Reggie Blair, or the President’s office to set up an individual or group meeting with Dr. Lowry.
Photo courtesy of @nakaylayvonne on Instagram