The female students attended a dessert party hosted by the Greek club Theta Delta Kappa. Kerri Klenkel and Laura Jones wore baggy, white T-shirts with a title of a rap song by artist YG written across the front. The song title included a racial slur.
Their photo was shared on Instagram and other social media sites.
Immediately, a discussion broke out among Lee students. The feedback was predominantly negative. The school’s administration was alerted as the discussion continued.
Vice President of University Relations Jerome Hammond said administrators are “absolutely confident this was done with no guile, no intent to harm anyone in any way.”
The girls have since apologized for their costumes.
Klenkel posted a picture to Instagram of a note which read, “Recently a picture was sent out on social media of me and a friend, and we want to apologize. Our intention was not to offend anyone in any way. Therefore, we are deeply sorry for those we have upset.”
Both have been called to appear before the university’s disciplinary board.
Hammond said it is not the intention of the university to vilify the students.
“A university is a place where you learn,” Hammond said. “We don’t want it to be a place where, when someone makes a mistake, we slam the hammer down on them.”
He said the local incident highlights a trending national topic on subjects like the diverse reactions blackface has received by the younger and older generations.
Hammond said he hopes the incident will lead to an open discussion on the subject.
“Our hope would be that we would urge people who read the story ... to be thoughtful and be patient and understanding,” Hammond said. “Let’s have a dialogue. Let’s not have a thousand different monologues going on.”
He requested patience, grace [for the students], understanding and dialogue as the university moved forward in handling the situation.