Dennis McCabe didn’t mince words.
Tarleton State University’s president wasn’t the least bit pleased after learning some TSU students had posted photos on the Internet that he said “denigrate the Martin Luther King holiday and African-American culture.”
“I am personally insulted by these photographs and am disappointed that Tarleton students have demonstrated such insensitivity,” McCabe said.
McCabe said he’s aware that every person has a “constitutional right of free speech.” However, McCabe said, “As President of Tarleton State University, I will condemn speech which I find reprehensible.”
According to McCabe, “most Tarleton students” would find objectionable photos that were posted on Facebook, a networking Web site popular among college students.
The photos showed a group of TSU students, including members of a popular fraternity, “celebrating” Martin Luther King Day by throwing a “MLK Party,” complete with buckets of fried chicken and 40-oz bottles of malt liquor sacks - symbols used to negatively stereotype black culture.
Party-goers also donned afros, carried fake guns, and dressed in gangster attire. One student even came dressed as “Aunt Jemimah.”
As a result, Donald “D. Ray” Elder, president of Tarleton’s NAACP chapter, approached university officials with concerns about the party and photos.
University officials said Tuesday they were “investigating it fully.” The probe continued Wednesday.
Meanwhile, McCabe said, Tarleton chose the topics Civility, Integrity and Diversity as a theme for the current school year.
“Student, faculty and staff leaders spoke about the importance of these values in a variety of settings during Freshman Orientation and a number of programs have been held throughout the fall semester, which reinforce these ideas,” McCabe said. “It is Tarleton’s expectation that students learn to act with civility on and off the campus, and we will use this incident as an opportunity to reinforce that value.”
McCabe said a forum, held Wednesday night, was part of an effort to “provide the university community an opportunity to dialogue about this issue.”
“I believe this is an important step toward healing among our students, faculty and staff members,” McCabe said.
In closing, McCabe said he regrets that “any of our students have been hurt by the display of these photographs.”
“The students involved have removed them and have expressed regret over offending their fellow students,” McCabe said. “Dr. King’s vision for the world was that people be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
“I challenge students to make character an important priority as they pursue their studies at Tarleton.”
DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor for the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.