BUFFALO, N.Y. – Cries of racism broke out across the campus of the University of Buffalo this week when students found Jim Crow-esque signs in a building on campus.
Someone had posted “White Only” and “Black Only” signs near several bathrooms and water fountains in Clemens Hall.
“It brought up feelings of the past of a past that our generation has never seen which I think is why it was so shocking for us to see,” Micah Oliver, president for the Black Student Union, tells ABC 27.
“There was fear expressed, anger, disappointment – all of that,” according to Oliver.
And then, Ashley Powell, a black graduate student, stood up in the meeting to admit she had hung the signs, claiming it was part of an “art project,” The Buffalo News reports.
Students were reportedly “outraged” and “walked out” of the meeting. Other students denounced Powell’s project as “racist” and “an act of terrorism.”
According to the News, “the project was for a 400-level art class titled ‘Instillation: Urban Space.’ Powell said the goal of the signs and project was to see what people’s reactions would be to them.”
“I apologize for the extreme trauma, fear, and actual hurt and pain these signs brought about,” Powell said in the statement, according to The Spectrum, the student newspaper.
“I apologize if you were hurt, but I do not apologize for what I did. Once again, this is my art practice. My work directly involves black trauma and non-white suffering. I do not believe that there can be social healing without first coming to terms with and expressing our own pain, rage, and trauma.”
“This was more than a black issue, more than a Black Student Union issue, this was a student issue,” Oliver tells ABC 7. “The student body should be offended.”
University administrators released a statement, saying, “After an initial investigation by University Police, it has been determined that the signs posted in Clemens Hall were part of a student art project. The University is continuing to review this matter through appropriate university policies and procedures.”