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Opinion | Rhodes College administrators get failing public relations grade in dealing with racist incidents on campus | Otis Sanford

The college is now investigating reported racist and anti-Semitic incidents that occurred on campus shortly after the fall semester started.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One of the basic rules of good public relations is, when negative news occurs, respond to it immediately. In other words, if you’re in charge, don’t be the last one to comment. It’s a message that I’m sure administrators at Rhodes College know very well. But the question swirling around campus these days is, did leaders follow that rule when it mattered most. The college is now investigating reported racist and anti-Semitic incidents that occurred on campus shortly after the fall semester started.

One incident happened on Labor Day when someone taped a banana to the dorm room door of two Black students. The clearly racist act quickly became the talk of campus – and soon was all over social media. A campus organization known as Men of Distinction publicly criticized the lack of response from the administration.

Finally last Friday, Interim President Carroll Stevens addressed the issue without making specific reference to the banana incident. The statement said the incidents do not align with the values of the college community.

That was fine as far as it goes, but it did not go far enough. So called college pranks have been around no doubt since the beginning of higher education, but clearly racist and anti-Semitic acts have no place in today’s society, regardless of the intent. And it would have been better for the college’s leadership to get ahead of the story – rather than trail it.

I’m Otis Sanford and that’s my point of view. 

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