College newspaper publishes KKK costume photo, admin responds

SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – Wofford College is responding to photos of former students dressed as Ku Klux Klan members.

They were originally published in a 1981 school yearbook.

7 News viewers reached out to us after the images were shared in an on-line student publication this year.

The image resurfaced in an online satirical section of the school’s newspaper called “Black and Blue,” meaning its content uses humor or sarcasm to discuss certain issues.

“It was a Halloween party held by one of the fraternities,” said Wofford College Director of News Services Laura Corbin. “It’s unfortunate and disappointing no matter when it was published whether that’s 30 years ago or today that students would be pictured in that or that it would be used in a campus publication.”

Click here to read the article published April 2017

“I definitely don’t think that’s something that should be allowed to be published especially from a place like Wofford,” said Student George Gbese. “It’s a prestigious college.”

Viewers contacted 7 News after the image and one from a 2005 yearbook were circulating on social media.

Corbin says it shows sorority members dressed as Smurfettes with blue faces, but the yearbook was printed in black and white. One shirt was labeled “Ghetto Smurfette.”

“There were some unfortunate selections for some of the young ladies for what they named themselves,” said Corbin.

Corbin says student publications do have staff advisors who oversee productions, while giving students freedom to express themselves.

“It is an offensive image, and again, disappointing that the incident occurred and was published 30 years ago,” said Corbin. “In terms of being published now. Again, the administration does not censor our student newspaper.”

Students shared their opinions on whether school leaders should draw a line.

“On a school level, I would say they have to allow it but I would say as a content creator you have to understand that everything you put out there is a choice and you have to be able to back up that choice,” said Wofford College alumnus Sean Bray. “Is this just for a shock reaction or is there something deeper that you’re getting at here? Because if there’s not, don’t put that out there. You’re just bringing up pain for people.”

Corbin says she cannot speak to the rationale behind this particular article but says students often revisit history to spark conversation. She adds that the school does promote diversity and inclusion.

“I cannot say for certain that it would not happen on campus anymore,” she said. “It would be our hope that it does not.”

Corbin also released this statement in regards to the college’s publications:

Wofford College’s student publications — the Bohemian (yearbook), Old Gold and Black (student newspaper) and The Journal (literary magazine) — follow the South Carolina Press Association Guidelines for College Student Media.

Wofford College recognizes the educational and societal value of encouraging the uninhibited, robust, free and open discussion of issues and ideas on America’s college and university campuses, as well as the legal protections afforded by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Therefore, all student-edited campus media have been established as designated public forums for student expression. Students are afforded full opportunity to inquire, question and exchange ideas as they strive to reflect all areas of student interest, including topics about which there may be dissent or controversy.