Critics were calling a college in Arkansas racist this week after it hung up signs telling passers-by that sagging pants would not be tolerated in the campus student center. A group of Henderson State University students told reporters the signs, which have since been taken down, were unfairly aimed at their black peers.
"It's politically insensitive to certain groups," Henderson senior Kristin Bell told KATV. The baggy pants trend is especially popular among black youth, who make up about 24 percent of the school's student population. "They felt like they were being targeted."
The signs went up for about two days last week and reportedly prohibited profanity, excessive loudness and rude behavior in addition to baggy pants. University spokeswoman Tonya Smith told Inside Higher Ed the signs were "a response to increasing concerns expressed over the past year by students, faculty, staff and community members about appropriate behavior across our campus, both in and out of the classroom." The school's dress code only requires "upper and lower garments and footwear" in university buildings.
— Stacey Spivey (@KATVStacey) August 14, 2015
Administrators have taken down the signs and apologized for the misunderstanding. But in a message to students, they indicated that the sagging pants rule still stood. "We remain committed to supporting campus and classroom environments conductive to learning and respect for all members of our community," they said.
Henderson isn't the first school to generate controversy with its baggy pants rules. Then-Gov. Mike Beebe signed a law in 2011 banning all Arkansas public school students from "the wearing of clothing that exposes underwear, buttocks or the breast of a female," Reuters reported. Last year, the City Council in Ocala, Florida, was forced to repeal an ordinance giving offenders a fine or jail time after the NAACP threatened to sue.