Recognizing success and planning to do more

Harris Pastides, President
Joan Gabel, Provost
Dennis Pruitt, Vice President for Student Affairs and Academic Support
Ed Walton, Chief Operating Officer
Chris Byrd, Vice President for Human Resources
John Dozier, Chief Diversity Officer

Three weeks ago, we were challenged to take more action with regard to diversity and inclusion. In fact, we want to do more to make our university the best it can be. This week, the Education Trust issued a report recognizing the University of South Carolina as a national leader for improving graduation rates for minority students. In fact, USC ranks in the top five among flagship universities for closing the graduation gap between minority and white students over the past decade. As a community, we must recognize both of these truths—we acknowledge both the commitment to keep up the good work already underway and the imperative to improve.

We have committed to understanding and addressing the concerns of our students as part of our ongoing efforts to improve our campus climate.

We must continue to affirm our Carolinian Creed as not only a formal statement of our values, but also a commitment to actions that help every member of our university community to feel that they are supported, respected and valued.

We have committed to understanding and addressing the concerns of our students as part of our ongoing efforts to improve our campus climate. In the last year, we’ve held a number of meetings, town halls and forums and invited our community members to share their experiences, worries and ideas. Since the demonstration we have continued to meet with students, faculty, staff and members of the surrounding community to identify steps forward and continue the progress we’ve made as an institution.

Growing our minority population—from 2009 to 2014 we increased our minority enrollment by 24.4 percent on the Columbia campus to 5,777 students from 4,641—and graduating those students at an ever-increasing rate is a result of a coordinated and thoughtful approach to diversity and inclusion that includes significant efforts at recruiting minority students; bolstering funding for campus programming that creates a more welcoming environment like the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Safe Zone; establishing programs like Opportunity Scholars, the Gamecock Guarantee and the Student Success Center; and, creating of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion two years ago.

Together, as a community, we will continue to take a proactive stance on diversity and inclusion.

Even though the University of South Carolina has a long record of successful efforts, we will continue to do more and to do better. So we have defined some next steps goals and initiatives, including:

  • Work with the Vision 2020 group to hold a campus forum early next year. The student leaders of this organization determined that thoughtfully planning the forum for next year would be better than rushing to hold it this semester before exams;
  • Implement a campus climate survey to have measurable data about our progress on diversity and inclusion efforts;
  • Establish the South Carolina Collaborative on Racial Reconciliation to create spaces for healthy dialogue about race and thoughtful actions that lead toward the reconciliation and healing of racial and other social differences in both the university community and communities across South Carolina. The work of this collaborative will complement the work of the recently launched Center for Civil Rights History and Research that will house the papers of U.S. Representative James Clyburn and other prominent civil rights activists in South Carolina;
  • Develop a new pathway for graduation with leadership distinction in social justice;
  • Develop and implement faculty workshops that help to facilitate more effective conversations about various social identities;
  • Implement new search committee training that addresses bias in the search process;
  • Empower the newly reconstituted Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee to address concerns of students, faculty and staff — including those described in the Vision 2020 document. This group is composed of the leaders of all student, faculty and staff organizations on campus that have a diversity or inclusion related mission; and,
  • Complete the work of the Social Compact Task Force that is exploring ways to eliminate abusive behaviors including discrimination, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual assault and hazing.

Together, as a community, we will continue to take a proactive stance on diversity and inclusion. As we endeavor in this work we ask that you engage with us by contacting the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to suggest ideas, ask questions or register concerns. The University of South Carolina remains steadfastly committed to improving our institution for the benefit of all members of the Carolina family.