More than a dozen Clemson University students apologized at an emotional campus meeting for a gang-themed party many criticized as racist after photos emerged showing a white person wearing blackface, school officials said.

The university organized the meeting, allowing 15 partygoers to stand up one by one and express remorse in front of about 200 people.

"Some people really recognized the courage that it took," said Gail DiSabatino, vice president for student affairs. There was discussion, tears, "and eventually there was hugging," she said.

University president Jim Barker and the NAACP announced investigations into the party, which was held during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, after photos emerged online earlier this week. The pictures featured some white students drinking malt liquor and at least one wearing blackface.

"They didn't know that they were being racist. It's really sad," said Ranniece McDonald, a junior who is black.

McDonald said Wednesday's meeting was productive and the apologies seemed sincere, "for the most part."

The school also has said it was investigating whether students were harassed or whether there was underage drinking at the party.