09/16/2013 02:07 pm ET Updated Sep 17, 2013

Texas Christian University Professor Offers Support To 'Students Of Color Only'

A university professor in Texas provoked a racially tinged controversy after offering an exclusive study session for students of color.

Dr. Santiago Piñón, an assistant professor at Texas Christian University, a 140-year-old private school, sent an email to 12 students Wednesday, saying that he typically gathers his minority students at the beginning of the year to "discuss the challenges they may face during the semester," according to Inside Higher Ed, which obtained a copy of the email.

"I don't mind if this would turn out to be a study session for my STUDENTS OF COLOR ONLY [emphasis his]," Piñón wrote to the selected students, who were enrolled in his Understanding Religion: Society and Culture class.

Allyson Guzman, one of the 12 students who received Piñón's offer, told local CBS affiliate KEYE-TV that the email left her confused because she identifies as white.

"I don't know if he was judging it by our pictures or our last names or what," Guzman said. She also questioned the ethics of offering extra help to some students and not others.

Speaking to The Huffington Post via email on Monday, Piñón said the intent of his email was misunderstood.

"I should have been more clear in that any study group is open to all students. My goal is to participate in and contribute to the TCU mission by being available to all students so they are successful in the classroom and beyond," he wrote. "This was neither a study group nor did I intend for it to become a study session."

Piñón acknowledged that he likes to offer himself "as a resource to students (particularly those of color) who may face challenges and become discouraged."

When asked how he identified the email recipients as being students of color, Piñón said:

I did not identify anyone as a student of color. There is an entire system that does that on a national level. ... In order for me to clarify how students are identified as students of color, you, and others, must clarify how students are identified as white. It is only when this is done that I am able to clarify who is identified as a student of color. In the email that I sent to students I may have inadvertently included individuals who are not students of color. For that I am apologetic.

Inside Higher Ed reports that the day after sending the controversial email, Piñón emailed the entire class to offer his support to anyone who wanted extra help.

HuffPost reached out to the college and received the following statement: "TCU expects that professors provide equal opportunities to all students.”

The school -- which has a $1.2 billion endowment and a student body that is 10.8 percent Latino, 5.5 percent black or African-American and 77.6 percent white -- did not respond when asked if it had spoken to Piñón about the matter.



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