A Minnesota college is scrambling to apologize after it sent a letter to new non-white students ordering them to come to a special meeting whites didn’t have to attend.
“In an effort to help new students of color feel more adjusted and connected to the university, a PRE-ORIENTATION SESSION WILL BE HELD ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 27th,” blares a letter sent by Concordia University in St. Paul to incoming non-white freshmen. “ALL NEW STUDENTS OF COLOR ARE EXPECTED TO ATTEND THIS MEETING.”
The special orientation meeting for non-white students isn’t new, but it’s receiving extra attention this year thanks to the university’s over-the-top way of demanding they attend.
Jeanine Flowers, who was planning to start at Concordia this fall, posted an excerpt from the letter online this week and said its tone was making her reconsider attending.
“I had to reread, wipe my eyes and have someone else to read this to make sure I was reading this correctly,” Flowers said. “This letter has made me rethink my educational institute. I supposed to start school on the 29th, but I will have to apply elsewhere. Really! I am so disappointed and I would not attend such a meeting.”
Flowers’ post was shared hundreds of times and caused quite a stir.
Ironically, though, the letter that so moved Flowers to outrage was written by a black woman, Concordia diveristy dean Cheryl Chatman, who posted a statement on the school’s website apologizing for the tone of the letter and pledging to change it in the future. Chatman said that even though the letter told all non-white students they were expected at the meeting, that didn’t make it mandatory.
“Clearly our excitement to ensure that our students realized the importance of this meeting may have been interpreted as required or mandatory instead of warm and welcoming,” Chatman said.
Chatman added that it was “unfortunate” Flowers had shared only a portion of the letter, leaving out later parts which made it clear the letter was intended to discuss all the minority-focused groups available at Concordia.
Chatman also reached out to Flowers, who posted an update on Facebook saying that she remained furious over the letter even after getting an explanation.
“My opinion about this letter in no way changed and I expressed that to her,” she said. “I told her there is a better way and how offensive that letter is not just to me, but a lot of people. Though her intent was not to segregate or isolate ‘people of color,’ that’s exactly what that letter did.”
Despite still being angry, Flowers said she was willing to work with Chatman to improve communication in the future.