A professor at Texas Christian University may have meant well, but he set off a controversy last week by sending out an e-mail promoting a special study session open to “students of color only.”
Assistant Professor of Religion Santiago Piñón told the Dallas Morning News, “I do like to offer myself as a resource to students (particularly those of color) who may face challenges and become discouraged.”
Texas Christian, in Fort Worth, has a student body of just over 8,000 and about 78 percent of those are white, according to the web site CollegeData.com.
“I thought, ‘Is this really happening?’” one student, who asked not to be named, told Inside Higher Education. “I laughed, in shock, as my immediate reaction.”
The e-mail, addressed to that student and eight others, all with surnames of Spanish origin, read, "At the beginning of the semester I usually like to invite all my students of color to get together and discuss the challenges they may face during the semester. However, the time slipped by and I didn't get a chance. So, I would like to ask if you are interested in a get together on Monday afternoon? We can also discuss the exam that is coming up, if you want. I don't mind if this would turn out to be a study session for my STUDENTS OF COLOR ONLY."
(Caps in original.)
But the student told Inside Higher Education that though her last name is Spanish, she is "75 percent white" and does not consider herself a student of color.
Not all students were offended by the e-mail.
“I think it was written with all good intentions, not meaning to segregate or leave anyone out,” said TCU freshman Daniel Castañeda.
Piñón (pictured) said the controversy was all a misunderstanding.
“I should have been more clear in that the study group is open to all students,” he said in an e-mail.
SOURCES: Dallas Morning News, Inside Higher Education, College Data