A group of Oregon State University students and staff joined community members outside Reser Stadium just before a game against Washington on Saturday night to protest concerns about racism on campus.
About 50 protesters marched in front of the stadium but were largely ignored by the thousands of football fans headed to the game.
Roshawn Davis, an Oregon State senior in liberal studies, said she attended the protest "so the campus knows what's going on."
Davis said she and others felt compelled to speak out after a "Black Out Reser" event to show school spirit at a previous football game included some students wearing black face paint and Afro wigs.
Some fans responded defensively to complaints and accused the students of stirring up trouble.
Earlier this week, some students were also angered by a noose hanging on the front lawn of a fraternity house. While it was later discovered that the noose was left over from a Halloween fundraiser at the fraternity, students were still bothered by what they considered a symbol of lynching.
Joakina Mode, a senior in communications, said she was attending the protest because "I feel like I don't have any other outlet to voice my feelings."
Mode said she feels she is constantly having to educate white students about issues of race on campus. "I don't feel like I'm just a student," she said. "I feel like I have to be a teacher."
The controversy started when Oregon State junior Casey Grogan encouraged students to wear all-black clothes to a football game to show school spirit. Orange and black are the school's colors.
A photo appeared of a white student in blackface promoting the idea, and the Halloween noose left outside a fraternity house fed concerns among some of the university's 297 black students. The school has an enrollment of 19,753.
The white editors of the student newspaper, The Daily Barometer, said they didn't think the photo would offend.
But many back students tied it to an insensitivity they feel they often face at a mostly white campus in a mostly white state.
Some say they face isolation and hostility and are weary of dealing with what they call white ignorance of their history and culture.
"It's very difficult to be part of such a small community on this campus," said Shannon Warren, 23, one of about 25 mostly black students who met Thursday with university President Edward J. Ray and other school officials. "You're always on guard because you never know what's going to happen."
Some wonder what the fuss is about.
Colin Landforce, a business major who attended the game, said he was impressed by the participation in the stadium "blackout."
"I grew up in Corvallis, and it has always been orange" at the stadium, Landforce said, adding that body paint is a common expression of school spirit. He also noted that at rival University of Oregon games, "people are going to be painted green."
Larry Roper, vice provost for student affairs, said he also saw the Barometer article and photo, but at the time, took the full body shot, a guide to how to show school spirit.
"I didn't connect it to the historical context of black face," he said. "I think if I just saw a face painted black it would strike me as a minstrel."
On Friday, the university issued a statement saying it takes the incidents seriously.
Lauren Dillard, the student paper's editor, said it had not occurred to the staff that a cover story about the blackout idea could offend.
"There were at least six people who looked at the cover and none of us had an inkling that a photo of a man in blackface would be offensive," Dillard said.
Two weeks later Renee Roman Nose, a American Indian writer for the paper, submitted her weekly colum, reporting widespread discontent among black students.
Information from: The Oregonian, http:www.oregonlive.com
Oregon State students upset by perceived racist symbols