FARGO, N.D. - North Dakota State University is investigating complaints about a campus skit in which a white student in blackface portrayed Barack Obama receiving a lap dance.
The same skit, part of a charity fundraiser held at a campus theater, also featured a depiction of cowboys having sex with each other, witnesses told The Forum newspaper, which first reported the backlash Friday.
"We're trying to find out the right approaches for accountability, but at the same time try to heal wounds that have occurred and allow the campus to move ahead," Janna Stoskopf, NDSU's dean of students, told The Associated Press on Friday.
The March 18 skit involving the NDSU Saddle and Sirloin Club was performed at the Mr. NDSU Pageant, which is sponsored by the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and raises money for diabetes research.
People who attended it said a pageant contestant from Saddle and Sirloin dressed as a woman from the Internet video "I Got a Crush on Obama" and performed a strip tease for another student, who was wearing dark makeup and an afro wig.
In the background, two male students dressed as cowboys simulated anal sex while holding an Obama sign that one student ripped at the conclusion of the 30-second performance, the Forum reported.
"That seems to be consistent with what's been described to me," Stoskopf said.
The Obama campaign had no comment Friday. Obama is to speak at North Dakota Democrats' state convention in Grand Forks next week.
NDSU President Joseph Chapman was not immediately available for comment. Messages left by the AP for Russell Danielson, adviser of the Saddle and Sirloin Club; Malika Carter, an NDSU assistant director of multicultural student services; and student body president Josh Reimnitz were not immediately returned.
"It doesn't matter if you're rural. It doesn't matter if you're from Fargo or Beulah, N.D.," said Joy Rice, a black Fargo resident and a member of the city's human relations commission. "You still need to respect people of color, in all aspects of life. This is a form of racism, and it's really taking a step back."
The skit follows a complaint filed against a sorority at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, where guests wore Indian costumes and red paint on their faces and bodies.
"This falls into the same category," Rice said of the NDSU skit. "It's just as bad."
Stoskopf said she expected the investigation could take until May 9, the end of the school year.
"One of the issues here is how do we balance what our policies and expectations about behavior are with the issue of freedom of speech," Stoskopf said. "Where does all of that get us?"
NDSU has 10,403 undergraduates. The student body is 92 percent white, while 1.5 percent identify themselves as black or African-American.