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Letter to New Students at Twin Cities University Creates Controversy, Conversation

August 05, 2016 12:09 PM

A letter to new students at Concordia University in St. Paul has started controversy and a conversation.

It was written by Dr. Cheryl Chatman, the Dean of Diversity and Executive Vice President of the University. It's a message meant to welcome students.

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The text was written in bold and all caps, one line of which read, "All new students of color are expected to attend the meeting."

Chatman was referring to an orientation on Aug. 27. Ahead of it, backlash was swift on campus.

"I'm kind of stunned; it seems very direct and not particularly sensitive," master's student Caryle Proescholdt said.

The outrage continued online. One student, Jeanine Flowers, posted part of the letter on Facebook, saying she was at a loss for words and found it to be insulting and isolating.

When asked Thursday why students of color were seemingly singled out, Dr. Chatman replied, "It's obvious at times that you are in the minority by sight."

The school's own statistics show that of the 4,500 students, 56 percent are Caucasian, 40 percent are of color and 4 percent are undisclosed.

"Students often need extra assurance that even though you're a minority, you're valued here, you're welcome here, you need to know you have a voice and what resources are available,"Chatman said.

Chatman points out just a portion of the entire letter was posted online. Some lines were blacked out and others were cut off.

When we showed the letter to other students they said, "In school, this is something you learn; it's not about race or color, it's about everybody."

Chatman wrote a second letter that Concordia University posted on its website.

As for Flowers, she says she pulled her enrollment and is no longer going to start school at the end of the month.

Credits

Beth McDonough

Copyright 2016 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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