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RIT apologizes for offensive photo found in yearbook

Local News

The Rochester Institute of Technology has issued an apology for offensive photos found in a student-made yearbook from the 1970s.

The photo, which was published by users on the college’s Facebook page, shows a group of people dressed as Ku Klux Klansmen, one holding a noose, with a person dressed in blackface.

According to the photo, which was confirmed by RIT officials, the photo is labeled as “Halloween at RIT 1979.”

RIT President David Munson says in a statement that media outlets will likely soon publish racist photos from university yearbooks around the nation. Munson says that this photo could be in the mix, and wanted to let the public know the image quote, “should have been completely unacceptable back then. Today we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.” 

The President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Dr. Marvin McMickle, says the photo is shocking, even for 1979 standards. Yet he says this photo presents an opportunity for 2019. He says, “I think RIT, and all area colleges together, ought to have some reminder of what a Klan robe suggests. What a lynch mob noose implies. These are not funny things. These are reminders of one of the darkest moments in American history.”

Herb Smith, Director of Jazz Bands and a Trumpet Professor with RIT, was a youngster in 1979 and says this would have been inexcusable. But RIT should not bear the full consequences of what this group of people, whoever they are, decided to do decades ago. He says, “RIT today should not be vilified for something that happened in 1979. I know the president of RIT personally. He’s a great guy. He’s all about inclusion. He’s all about diversity.”

Smith says there’s still a long way to go on the road to equality, but we have come a long way. “This is obviously politically incorrect right now, like this could never happen. That’s a good thing.”

RIT President David Munson also says in his statement that RIT remains “deeply committed to maintaining a safe and supportive environment with policies that promote dignity and respect for all individuals.”

The college will hold a student-focused discussion on racial issues this Friday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Allen Chapel of the Schmitt Interfaith Center.

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