Calling the image offensive and chilling, CSU President Larry Penley sent out a message to the CSU community Monday criticizing the use of a graphic portraying a black silhouette of a person hanging from a tree on a flyer.
The flyer, created by the Collegiate Farm Bureau, an agricultural club, was meant to promote a public forum held last week to discuss Referendums C and D, two issues on the upcoming ballot that will greatly affect higher education funding, among other things.
Above the graphic the front read, "Does CSU's Future Hang on Referendums C and D?"
In a message from the president to the university community, Penley said the use of the image was inappropriate, "given the historical context of lynching having been employed in our country as a method of racial murder and intimidation."
However, Melanie Calderwood , public relations manager of the Collegiate Farm Bureau said that was never the intent.
"We are truly sorry for any offense that was taken. We have no intention of offending anybody," she said. "Our intention was to inform and focus on the impact of Referenda C and D."
Calderwood wouldn't comment further.
The university received several e-mails from people in the community who were offended or concerned about the flyer, said Brad Bohlander, university spokesman .
Penley's concern regarding the situation prompted his e-mail to CSU students, faculty and staff.
The image also upset many people in both the administration and on campus, Bohlander said.
"I was pretty shocked and disappointed," said Lydia Kelow , interim assistant director of Black Student Services (BSS).
Kelow, whose views don't reflect those of BSS, said she hopes students who are upset by this image come forward and email Dana Hoag , Collegiate Farm Bureau adviser, Dana Hiatt , director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity or John Lincoln , senior adviser to President Penley.
"Silence is one thing that makes racism continue," she said.
Not everyone saw a lynching in the image.
"It's just another political ad; it's rather festive considering the holiday," said John Wilson, freshman civil engineering major . "You're just encouraging racism if you keep bringing up the issue."
If the graphic has racial connotations behind it, Kelow said she hopes appropriate actions are taken; if it is due to a lack of awareness, she hopes the Collegiate Farm Bureau and the campus are educated.
Penley and Vice Provost Tony Frank are investigating the issue further and will take the appropriate actions, Bohlander said, which vary depending on the circumstances.
"I hope that the student group involved did not intend to cause such offense in its efforts to promote what was otherwise a worthwhile program on state issues," Penley said. "However, any lack of intent does not diminish the harm that such an incident may cause."
He said the image could be viewed as contributing to a racially hostile environment under Title VI and Title VII of the U.S. Civil Right Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in employment and in any program/activity receiving federal financial aid.
"Beyond our moral obligation we have a legal obligation," Bohlander said.