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Has Tri-C Got a Beef With Lesbians?

The case of the hugging girlfriends.

Brandy Lusk and Akilia Wharton are Tri-C students. Lusk is white, Wharton black. There's an age gap, too -- Wharton is 31, eight years older than her girlfriend.

That's right: They're lesbians, mixing race and generation to boot. "The triple whammy," says Lusk.

Or so they've been told by administrators at Tri-C, who apparently are about as comfy with the relationship as Mel Gibson is with Jews.

Two weeks ago, a student armed with a razor blade mistook Wharton for someone else and threatened her before being restrained by campus police. Now the women believe they're being blamed for it.

When they discussed the incident with Allie Dunham, the human-resource director at the Unified Technologies Center, where they attend class, Dunham insisted they not hug or kiss in public, to avoid causing any problems.

"You got people walking around with razor blades and guns," says Lusk, "and you're worried about me giving my girlfriend a hug?"

The real problem, she adds, are the people in charge. "I went to high school in West Virginia," she says, "and I didn't experience this. It's crazy the way they think around here, like the 1800s."

Dunham disputes Lusk's grasp of history. "We're an institution of inclusion, not exclusion," she says. But she apparently forgot to send that memo to campus police.

One day after class, the couple was walking outside the UTC building. They talked for a minute and exchanged goodbyes. Lusk then leaned over to hug Wharton.

According to the women, a campus cop was parked at the curb and caught their brief embrace. He jumped out of his car and scolded them. "You two can't do that here," he said. "This ain't the Holiday Inn!"

So much for inclusion.

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