A group of African-American students have accused their university president of racism after he invited them over for dinner and decorated the table with cotton stalks.
One of the Lipscomb University, Tennessee students said on social media they were "very offended" and "very uncomfortable".
But president Randy Lowry reportedly told them cotton "isn't inherently bad if we're all wearing it".
The student said a group of Latino students he'd invited for dinner the night before didn't have cotton stalks at the centre of their table - but were served stereotypically "black meals", such as collard greens, mac and cheese, and cornbread.
Another social media post has a photo of the cotton stalks with the caption: "Blatant Bigotry! Why invite black students to the president's house to offend their culture?"
Mr Lowry has since apologised for the decor and dinner, and told The Tennessean he'd make "special efforts" to meet with the students.
He said he was "extraordinarily sorry" for the offence caused and claimed none of it was intentional.