College President Apologizes For Cotton Stalk Centerpieces During Dinner With Black Students

The president of Lipscomb University invited African American students over to his Nashville home for dinner Friday, where he had cotton stalks as centerpieces. After the students deemed the tableware offensive, he issued an apology.

President L. Randolph Lowry, who is white, invited black students to his home for dinner to discuss their experiences at Lipscomb, according to a Facebook post. The students noticed his dinner table was laden with cotton stalks, which offended them, according to the post. Lowry apologized through a campus-wide email.

“The content of the centerpieces was offensive, and I could have handled the situation with more sensitivity,” he wrote. “I sincerely apologize for the discomfort, anger or disappointment we caused and solicit your forgiveness.”

Lowery invited the students over to discuss the school, which has a student population that is roughly 77 percent white, 7 percent African-American and 6 percent Latino, according to a diversity report. Nashville, where Lipscomb is located, is predominately white at 65 percent, with a 26 percent black population. 

Amid controversies concerning confederate memorabilia in U.S. cities, Nashville rejected a proposal for the removal of a monument of former Klu Klux Klan leader Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest from its state Capitol Sept. 1, USA Today reported.

Multiple students confided in him regarding his centerpieces, the president stated. A conversation between himself and the students about the centerpieces is needed, Lowry said.

“I have heard from a number of students who would like to spend more time together engaging in conversation,” said Lowry. “I am most pleased to do so either in small groups or individually.”

“As we arrived to the president’s home and proceeded to go in we seen cotton as the center pieces,” a student identified as Nakayla Yvonne wrote under a picture she took of the centerpiece on Instagram. “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.”

Lipscomb University is a private, liberal arts school affiliated with the Churches of Christ, according to the school’s website. It has an acceptance rate of 55 percent, as of 2014. The…

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