- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

BALTIMORE (AP) The public relations firm promoting Morgan State University came under fire this week after it instructed students appearing in a television commercial not to show up with dreadlocks, head wraps, corn rows or braids.
Sahara Communications' letter, which arrived at the school's theater department on Monday, outraged many Morgan students, who saw it as a blatant attempt to portray a false image of the historically black college.
"It's ridiculous that a black college would typecast its students," sophomore Zakiyyah Seitu said. "For a long time, black people have had to change who they are so they can fit in, and a lot of us go to a black college so we don't have to change who we are. A lot of people are infuriated."
Students got word of the letter Monday night and organized a protest for Tuesday morning. About 20 students attended the protest, Morgan State spokesman Clinton R. Coleman said.
Students posted fliers around campus quoting Sahara's letter, which said, "Please tell the students to dress in what would be casual student attire (No locks, head wraps, and men with corn rows/braids)." Some students said one student was told by the public relations firm, "This is not a hip-hop university."
"Are we not all fit to represent the University at which we pay tuition?" the student fliers asked.
The scene of the filming was tense, students said. The only two male students in the Morgan State theater department were told they couldn't be in the demo because of their hairstyles, and a female student was asked to go home and change her hairdo, students said.
While the filming continued, school administrators met with about 20 upset students and assured them that all interested students could take part in the filming, Mr. Coleman said.
"The commercial was not intended to be exclusive from our point of view," he said.
Students said they were gratified by the meeting but suspected the university had a role in the letter's wording.
Mr. Coleman said the letter was written by Sahara Communications without input from the university. He called it a "misstep."
Sahara spokeswoman Karen D. Sloane-Thomas said company officials met with students Tuesday and that "the issue discussed has been resolved." The firm, which is owned by Morgan State alumna Sandy Harley, issued a statement late yesterday afternoon, saying it never asked a student to change his or her hairdo.

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