Hillsdale College President Under Fire for Race Comments

Thursday, 01 Aug 2013 06:37 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The president of Hillsdale College is under fire for saying Michigan state officials once visited the campus to determine if enough "dark ones" were enrolled.

Larry Arnn, the president of the private college – ranked a top conservative school by the Young America's Foundation — made the remark Wednesday during a subcommittee hearing on state standards, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Arnn told lawmakers several weeks before he became president of the school in 2000, the state of Michigan sent a group of people to his campus with clipboards to "look at the colors of people’s faces and write down what they saw."

Arnn said his college doesn’t keep those kinds of records, and added: "What were they looking for besides dark ones?"

Lawmakers quickly jumped on the comments.

"You’re the president of a college. I would expect better out of you," Democratic state Rep. David Knezek charged, later calling on Arnn to apologize.

The college later issued a statement clarifying Arnn's intentions.

"No offense was intended by the use of that term except to the offending bureaucrats, and Dr. Arnn is sorry if such offense was honestly taken," the Free Press reported. "But the greater concern, he believes, is the state-endorsed racism the story illustrates."

College officials said they believe federal and state officials are forcing Hillsdale to count its students by race.

Jan Ellis, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education, denied the department ever sent anyone to Hillsdale to identify students by race, the Free Press reported.

Former Michigan Parent Teacher Association president Shaton Berry told the Free Press she was "completely flabbergasted."

"I’m disappointed that in this day and age, we still have people using references like that," said Berry, who was at the meeting. "But I’m not shocked."

But Arnn also found some support amid the furor.

"I think this was Dr. Arnn's way to indicate that he was offended with what they were doing in taking clipboards and walking around campus to record the color of students' skin," one Hillsdale alum told Mlive.com.

The conservative college, founded in 1844, rejects all federal and state funding to help guarantee its independence.

It also was the first college in America whose charter prohibited discrimination.

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