The State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburgh is apologizing for an illustration on a recent cover page of the campus’ newspaper that many students deemed racist.
WPTZ, the NBC affiliate in Plattsburgh, N.Y., reported that the Oct. 23 issue of the Cardinal Points, a student-operated publication, features a blackface cartoon that detractors said displays many offensive stereotypes.
The illustration depicts a Black student with “bulging eyes and a large white mouth,” according to The Daily Beast. The young man, who is dressed in a cap and gown with a diploma clenched in his hand, stands in a rundown neighborhood replete with boarded up windows, graffiti-tagged buildings, broken signs and a stripped vehicle sitting on cinderblocks.
The image accompanied an article, “Minority Admissions Rates Examined” that looked at Plattsburgh’s diversity efforts.
While many on campus—which boasts a 16 percent international student body—thought the article was well written, according to reports, many students interviewed by the television station said the photo was unrealistic and offensive.
“What is this,” one unnamed Black student told WPTZ. “I’m from New York City. There’s no community that looks like that broken stop sign, burnt down buildings or cars that look that way.”
The Cardinal Points released a statement apologizing for the photo.
“It has come to our attention that the graphic in question not only has a disconnect to the article it was created to work with, but it also unintentionally features offensive and stereotypical elements that misrepresent African American students,” the editors wrote in a statement posted on the publication’s site.
“To be frank, we deeply regret the use of this graphic and any offense or harm it may have caused our friends and peers. As SUNY Plattsburgh students and editors of the newspaper, we are constantly trying to represent the campus community in the best possible way, and in this case, we did not do so.”
SUNY Plattsburgh President John Ettling denounced the photo and released his own statement.
“The front-page illustration in Friday’s edition of the Cardinal Points student newspaper does not reflect a range of values SUNY Plattsburgh holds dear. Rather, as the editors of Cardinal Points indicated in their own written apology, the cartoon features ‘offensive and stereotypical elements that misrepresent African-American students.’ It is also personally offensive to me.”
The SUNY Plattsburgh Black Student Union held a town hall meeting to discuss the illustration and how to create a more culturally sensitive campus moving forward.