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Forth Worth, Tex. (CBS HOUSTON) – A Texas Christian University assistant professor of religion is taking criticism after sending out an email to students “of color.”
According to multiple reports, including Inside Higher Ed, 12 students in “Understanding Religion: Society and Culture” received an email from professor Dr. Santiago Pinon on Wednesday, which reads:
“At the beginning of the semester I usually like to invite all my students of color to get together and discuss the challenges they may face during the semester,” Piñón wrote. “However, the time slipped by and I didn’t get a chance. So, I would like to ask if you are interested in a get together on Monday afternoon? We can also discuss the exam that is coming up, if you want. I don’t mind if this would turn out to be a study session for my STUDENTS OF COLOR ONLY [emphasis was written in original email].”
One student in the class – Allyson Guzman — said she hadn’t realized she’d ever been divided into a racial group based upon her last name until receiving the email.
“I usually say I’m white with a little bit of Latino,” she told Inside Higher Ed. “I was like, did this really just happen? Did I really just get segregated into a certain group?”
Some are stating that the whole situation has simply been lost in translation. Lisa Albert, a TCU spokeswoman, stated that it was a “misunderstanding,” and Piñón has since written another e-mail clarifying his intent.
“As I stated in class, if you have any questions about the exam you are more than welcome to contact through email over the weekend,” Piñón wrote in his follow-up email. “Also, I should be in my office on Friday and on Monday if you should have any questions and would like to stop by and discuss how to best study for the exam.”
However, not all students were offended by the original email reaching out to the class.
Daniel Castañeda, a freshman in the class who also received Piñon’s e-mail, told Inside Higher Ed that he appreciated the professor’s email, given Texas Christian University’s relatively small Hispanic population. He added that not all Hispanic students “needed” the help, but would “appreciate” the professor reaching out.