‘Insensitive’ Letter Sparks Apology From Stark State

Shane Hoover, The Repository (Canton, Ohio), May 3, 2008

CANTON The president of Stark State College of Technology listened Friday to calls for diversity training in the wake of an “insensitive” letter sent to students last month. The meeting with college staff and faculty was one of several that President John O’Donnell held this week to address the controversy, which has included his own written apology.

The trouble started when the college registrar mailed letters announcing a new computer system for students. Using the fictional student name “Blackie White,” the letter gave students an example of how to log on to the program.

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The remaining letters were held, and on April 22, O’Donnell issued an apology acknowledging reactions of “consternation, hurt and distress” from students and staff to the simulated student name.

The “choice of phrasing was inappropriate, unacceptable and insensitive, yet, was done without malice. That does not, though, reduce the negative impact on our student body, specifically our African-American students and on others who received the letter,” O’Donnell’s letter said.

The registrar used the name “Blackie White” because it is the name of her pet, and is “extremely remorseful,” Jones said.

{snip} About 15 percent of Stark State’s students are minorities, most of them African-American.

While the college has written policies on diversity, there is no formal sensitivity training, said Jones, adding that Stark State will continue to respect and encourage diversity.

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