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#PRFail: TCU Professor Offers Tutoring for Only 'Students of Color'
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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College. It's not all "Animal House." There is actual learning to be done, and in that plight of higher education and $80,000 in debt, a student may wander inside the realm of an occasional D. When that happens, students look to the help of a tutor. Young people are paying to be at college (well, some young people's parents pay) and they deserve every bit of access to assistance and learning they can get. 

And then there are the cases of Texas Christian University and assistant professor of religion Santiago Piñón

According to InsideHigherEd.com, Piñón sent out an email to his students that he deemed 1) needed his cherished help and 2) were "of color"...only. Here's his email:

At the beginning of the semester, I usually like to invite all my students of color to get together and discuss challenges they may face during the semester. 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 [sic] 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. (NOTE: The emphasis was Piñón's.)

For more irony, note the class title: "Understanding Religion: Society and Culture." Let's count the red flags, shall we? You have a "Christian" university, in a religion class, discuss society and culture...and yet, we are going to do what Jesus would never do, as well as most understanding people of color: exclude white folk. Stay classy, Santiago. Segregation via professor. That's always a nice thing for a collegiate recruiting trip, don't you think? 

I'm sure TCU asked Piñón to put the sanctimonious toothpaste back in the tube, which would explain Piñón's quick retort and "come to Jesus" moment. (See what I did there?)

In an emailed statement, Piñón said that the intent of his email was "misunderstood." But of course he was.

"I should have been more clear in that the study group is open to all students," he said. "My goal is to participate in and contribute to the [university's] mission by being available to all students so they are successful in the classroom and beyond. I have always been open to having review sessions with an entire class or with smaller groups of students without excluding others. I want all my students to be successful and am willing to devote extra time to foster that success.

Piñón continued: "I do like to offer myself as a resource to students (particularly those of color) who may face challenges and become discouraged; goal is to encourage and offer support, so I am troubled to think some students may have thought they were being excluded from a study session because that was not at all the intention. I have since sent an e-mail clarifying the misunderstanding."

Appreciate that, hermano, but in the meantime as you are educating the masses, you may want to consider what people will infer from your commentary, rather than what you imply with that dunderhead message. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for acculturated instruction, isolated involvement, and racially based needs. This is a grown (white) man who proudly pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. Yes. Way. And if you think that's different, I even more proudly represented the United Negro College Fund for four years, as well as its partner HBCUs — that's historically black colleges and universities, for those students not of color. 

All that said, professor Piñón is a nitwit. A scholarly one, but a nitwit nonetheless. If there was a real reason for this exclusionary email, state it. However, to say that only "students of color" deserved his precious tutorial grace is a cacophonous  ballyhoo that is richly deserved. The hate mail, the forums, the tweets — they are all coming in his direction. And if there's enough of this mess, it will ironically affect the one color he cares about most — green. Ka-ching. 


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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