This April 5, 2000 file photo shows Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich., at a news conference in Jackson, Mich. (AP Photo/Jackson Citizen Patriot, Bob Keyes)
HILLSDALE, Mich. (AP) — The leader of a small Michigan college referred to the faces of minorities on his campus as “dark ones” during an appearance Wednesday before a legislative subcommittee in Lansing but later issued an apology.
Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn was speaking against the state’s adoption of Common Core standards in reading, writing and math when he described criticism he once received for not having enough “dark” students at the private school, the Detroit Free Press reported.
“The state of Michigan sent a group of people down to my campus, with clipboards … to look at the colors of people’s faces and write down what they saw,” Arnn explained. “We don’t keep records of that information. What were they looking for besides dark ones?”
Later Wednesday afternoon, Arnn issued an apology.
“No offense was intended by the use of that term except to the offending bureaucrats, and Dr. Arnn is sorry if such offense was honestly taken,” the college said in the statement.
Some Democrats told Arnn during the subcommittee meeting that they were offended by his comments.
“You’re the president of a college. I would expect better out of you,” said Rep. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights.
Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills, leader of the House’s Democratic minority, said he was “extremely disappointed” by what he called “Arnn’s racist remarks.”
“It’s shocking that a supposedly educated individual from an institute of higher learning would repeatedly use inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric,” Greimel said in a statement.
Hillsdale is a four-year, independent, liberal arts college in Hillsdale County, about 50 miles southwest of Ann Arbor. It has an enrollment of about 1,400 full-time students.
“Hillsdale College was founded in 1844 by abolitionist Free Will Baptists and was the first college in the land to prohibit by charter discrimination based on ‘nationality, color or sex,’” the school’s statement said.
Hillsdale College said its commitment to equality continues “down to the present day, despite attempts by both federal and state bureaucrats to force it to count its students by race.”
The new Common Core standards replace a hodgepodge of educational goals that had varied greatly from state to state. The federal government was not involved in the state-led effort to develop them but has encouraged the project.
While proponents say the new standards will better prepare students, critics worry they’ll set a national curriculum for public schools rather than letting states decide what is best for their students.
Efforts to slow down or derail the standards arose this year in Michigan and other states.
Michigan lawmakers have told state education officials not to spend state money on implementing the standards until hearings can be held.