A Michigan college issued an apology after its president made racially offensive remarks Wednesday afternoon.
Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn described minority students as "dark ones" during a state legislature subcommittee hearing regarding the adoption of Common Core State Standards.
While testifying against the Common Core, which have been adopted in more than 40 states in an effort to standardize education, Arnn said he took issue with the idea of government interfering with educational institutions and went on to describe a letter he had received from the Department of Education shortly after becoming president at Hillsdale. The letter, he told the committee, said his college "violated the standards for diversity because we didn't have enough dark ones, I guess, is what they meant."
According to Michigan-focused news site MLive, lawmakers at the meeting immediately criticized Arnn for using “offensive” language, but he did not apologize. Instead, Arnn went on to say: “The State of Michigan sent a group of people down to my campus, with clipboards ... to look at the colors of people’s faces and write down what they saw. We don’t keep records of that information. What were they looking for besides dark ones?"
A Michigan Department of Education spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press that officials visited Hillsdale in 1998 for a routine evaluation of the school’s teacher preparation program. During that visit, they noted the ethnicity of the students and faculty members in the program.
Several hours after Arnn made his initial statements, Hillsdale College issued an official apology. “No offense was intended by the use of that term except to the offending bureaucrats," read the statement, which was published by MLive. It further said that while Arnn was sorry if offense was taken, his greater concern “is the state-endorsed racism the story illustrates."
Located in Hillsdale, Mich., the small liberal arts institution over which Arnn presides was founded in 1844. According to its website, the school "was the first American college to prohibit in its charter any discrimination based on race, religion or sex, and became an early force for the abolition of slavery.” Hillsdale does not receive state or federal subsidies and avoids “federal mandates and control,” another page on its site says.
An alum told MLive he believes Arnn’s comments were misunderstood.
“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,” James Joseph, a 2010 graduate, told the outlet. “He’s a very magnanimous man with a generous and charitable spirit, but he doesn’t stand on public piety.”
Hillsdale College is notably conservative. In 2012, the Young America Foundation ranked it one of the most conservative colleges in the country. The Hillsdale Collegian also reported that in 2012, Arnn’s most substantial campaign donation was to tea party favorite Congressman Tim Walberg.