Clemson University Probes Racist Party

Susanne M. Schafer, AP, Jan. 30, 2007

Clemson University President James Barker on Tuesday decried a party where white students mocked black stereotypes by drinking malt liquor and at least one student dressed in black face.

Barker said in a letter to students and faculty the university was investigating. The NAACP also confirmed it was looking into the Clemson party and at least three other similar events held at universities throughout the country.

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Later in the day, about 50 students and local residents gathered about 20 miles from campus at a library where students said they would plan a demonstration at the school and suggested apologies were needed from the party’s planners and university officials.

“Yes, it may have been free speech but it was disrespectful and that’s why we’re mad,” said Ranniese McDonald, 20, a junior engineering student. “We need to come together to say, ‘Racism is alive and this will not be tolerated.’”

School officials said they became aware of the party over the weekend and have met with some of the offended students. The party, which students said had a “gangsta” theme, was held the day before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Pictures from the party were posted on the social networking Web site Facebook.com.

Following uproar from the photos, party planners issued an unsigned apology letter through the school for “any disrespect we have caused.”

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“We want everyone to know how sorry we are, and that we are willing to do anything to make things right,” the letter said.

Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the party wasn’t “just harmless fun.”

“We once lynched African-Americans as good fun and humor,” Randolph said. “We also execute them at a real high rate for fun and humor. We also don’t educate them or pay them like we pay others in the community and that’s fun and humorous to a lot of people.”

Randolph confirmed the national office was investigating similar parties held elsewhere around the country.

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Clemson officials said the school was investigating to see whether any students were harassed or if there was underage drinking at the party.

Barker said in his letter the issue could either divide or unite the school.

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Clemson University has roughly 1,100 black students out of more than 17,000 undergraduates, according to the university’s Web site.

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