University president issues apology over 'offensive' cotton stalk centerpieces for dinner with black students

A dinner intended to give African American students at a Tennessee university the opportunity to discuss their experience at the private liberal arts school left attendees shocked after tables were decorated with cotton stalk centerpieces.

Lipscomb University president Randy Lowry invited black students to his Nashville home Friday night for a dinner, but many of the students deemed the tableware and menu offensive.

According to several students, vases with stalks of cotton were placed on the tables. One student named Nakayla said in a post on Instagram that the centerpieces were added for the dinner with African American students and were not present for a dinner held for Latino students the day before.

"So I attend Lipscomb university and as most of you know that is a predominately white school," Nakayla wrote in a lengthy post. "Tonight AFRICAN AMERICAN students were invited to have dinner with the president of the school. As we arrived to the president's home and proceeded to go in we seen cotton as the center pieces."

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Nakayla said the experience was "very uncomfortable" and many students at the dinner were offended. When students asked president Lowry the reasoning behind the cotton showpieces, he reportedly said he thought it was "fallish."

"Then he said, 'It isn't inherently bad if were (sic) all wearing it,' then walked off," Nakayla wrote.

Students were also offended that the food served seemed to resemble "black meals" and included corn bread, macaroni cheese and collard greens. Nakayla wrote in her Instagram post that the Latino students were served tacos during their dinner with the president.

Following social media backlash, Lowry issued an apology saying the content of the centerpieces was "offensive."

"Several students shared with me their concern about the material used for centerpieces which contained stalks of cotton," a message posted to the school's Facebook page read. "I could have handled the situation with more sensitivity. I sincerely apologize for the discomfort, anger or disappointment we caused and solicit your forgiveness."

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