Transylvania University officials continued to deal Monday with the fallout from an article by a former student that detailed the racial hostility she felt there.
Tracy Clayton, a Louisville native who attended Transylvania from 2000 until 2004 and now works for BuzzFeed, wrote that she was reminded of her Transy experiences after news broke about racist chants sung at a fraternity party at the University of Oklahoma.
She posted the story, "A Black Girl's History with Southern Frat Racism," Thursday, and it soon went viral. The essay got even more publicity after a Transylvania official urged students not to comment about it on social media.
On Friday, Transylvania President Seamus Carey issued a letter to the campus community near downtown Lexington, calling for a series of conversations about race.
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"All of us who have read the post must take the issues it raises to heart, both institutionally and individually," he wrote. "How can we learn from them and ensure that they are not a part of our culture moving forward? An adequate response to these issues cannot be captured in a letter. It must be realized in the open, free and sincere exchange of perspectives and ideas."
On Monday, Carey issued a statement that said minority enrollment at Transy has increased from 3 percent in 2001 to 18 percent in 2014. He also said that two residence halls named for Henry Clay, a former speaker of the U.S. House who owned slaves but freed some of them in his will, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, a Transy alumnus, are being replaced with new buildings. In her essay, Clayton wrote about the buildings named after the two men.
Carey said that "naming opportunities for these buildings will go to members of our contemporary community whose life stories inspire our students to become moral beacons and leaders in their communities wherever they serve.
"Ms. Clayton's personal narrative depicts racially insensitive decisions made by the institution as well as hurtful behaviors of members by a fraternity chapter," Carey wrote. "These mistakes are not only a regrettable part of Transylvania's past, but of our country's as well. However, for us they are more regrettable because our primary reason for existing is to elevate the knowledge, wisdom and moral character of our students."
Carey said campus training on micro-aggression — subtle acts of exclusion, derogatory or aggressive behavior — had already been planned for student leaders in May, and the training will be expanded to the rest of campus in the fall.
Clayton's essay dealt with her feelings as a black student who arrived at Transy in 2000 and immediately saw Confederate flags hanging in the window of the Kappa Alpha fraternity in one of Transy's dorms.
"I went to class, tried to be open and sociable, and vented to my handful of black friends when we were alone," Clayton wrote. "But those flags never let me forget that I was not wanted at any point in history, not then and not now, not in my temporary home, the place where I slept, the place my mother was spending her hard-earned money to send me."
After the essay appeared, Clayton was alerted by some Transylvania students that Shane McKee, the school's director of student involvement, had emailed students urging them not to comment on social media about the article.
The national KA chapter in Lexington, Va., issued an apology to Clayton for "any offensive words or actions directed at Ms. Clayton or others."
Clayton also wrote about going to a KA party where a fraternity brother wore a Confederate flag wrapped around him, and about KA's traditional Old South Week, where fraternity members dressed in Confederate uniforms.
A statement from the national KA office in Lexington, Va., said the fraternity has banned all Confederate flags and costumes because "gentlemanly conduct and respect for all are the core values of Kappa Alpha Order."
Clayton also recounted an incident in 2001, where someone wrote a racial epithet on the door of a friend's dorm room in Davis Hall. That led to the removal of Jefferson Davis' portrait from Davis Hall's lobby, although it was later rehung in the fine arts building. Since then, the portrait has been removed.
Lydia Lissanu, a Transy senior who is vice president of the Black Student Alliance, said Monday that Clayton's story brought her relief.
"I felt sort of a sense of relief that someone had voiced their opinions about something that had made so many people of color uncomfortable, and that's the KA fraternity," she said. "It's a very contentious issue, with a lot of anger, a lot of fear, a lot of hurt, it's an issue that is very politically loaded on this campus."
Although no longer allowed to hang Confederate flags, the fraternity's roots in old South nostalgia are still potent, Lissanu said.
"The organization is predicated on a history of hatred, but they have an incredible amount of power," she said. "I think there is going to have to be discussion, but I think there has to be action. What steps will they (Transy) take to really deal with this issue?"
KA members at Transy referred all questions to the national chapter on Monday.