Campus furthers diversity, unity initiatives
Black History Month may be drawing to a close, but there are exciting plans on the horizon for diversity programming at Charleston Southern University. The Office of Diversity has partnered with many areas of campus to provide resources that educate on pains of the past, examine issues of the present, and emphasize opportunities for the future in our community and nation.
In recent months, the Diversity office has provided forums that discussed current events and its effects on people of color on our campus, as well as events that encourage unity and racial equity. According to the Office of Diversity, there are many groups on campus who have been instrumental in helping further diversity initiatives for CSU, including the African American Society, We Stand with our Black Student Athletes, CSU Athletics, Student Life, the CSU Board of Trustees and senior administration.
“Barriers that exist between race are largely due to fear—fear of talking about it. The Office of Diversity’s goal is to provide the insight and tools to embrace and explore anxious feelings, have fruitful conversations that bring positive change in our community, and join together as a campus and as a body of believers united in Christ,” said Rev. Tim Grant, CSU’s diversity officer and assistant dean of student organizations. “Being a Christian university, it is vitally important that we stick to the prescription given to us by Jesus Christ on how to love and treat everyone fairly.”
Grant shared that CSU’s diversity numbers reflect the university’s effort in providing opportunities for Black students seeking a college degree from a Christ-centered and academically challenging environment.
CSU is one of the most diverse higher education institutions in the state of South Carolina, with 34.1% of our student body representing people of color. The university also demonstrates a majority female population at 64%.
Ethnic diversity at Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) institutions in the United States has trended upward according to data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The data states that overall student diversity on campuses had an average of 30.9% in 2018-19, up from 16.6% in 2003-04. In the last five years alone, campuses have seen an increase of 4.4% diversity.
CSU’s past and continued partnerships that further diversity programming include: sponsorship of YWCA’s MLK Summit each January, SPAWAR tech camp partnership targeting minority youth, and Dream Girls Conference. CSU is also a member of the Black History Intercollegiate Consortium, which includes the College of Charleston, The Citadel, Medical University of South Carolina, and Trident Technical College. Grant serves as president of the consortium.
The “We Choose Love” Movement
Last summer, the CSU football ministry began a movement called We Choose Love, presenting the opportunity to put words into action and confronting injustices targeting people of color. Head Football Coach Autry Denson said that We Choose Love is set apart from other movements by its Christ-centered mission, the inclusiveness of teammates, and intentionality regarding loving those who have different beliefs or values.
In a statement last year, the football team explained the movement they hope reaches further than our campus. “Our mission is to be intentional about showing the love of Christ by how we treat one another for the purpose of contributing to a legacy of individuals who intentionally choose to love others as opposed to hate. Our teammates are those who are also fed up with divisiveness, discrimination, bigotry, and injustices of any kind. We will do this by imitating the greatest leader to ever live, Jesus Christ, and choose to love unconditionally as He does.”
After last summer’s injustices and violence toward Black males and females, student-athletes like women’s soccer player Kayla Robinson saw a need for a student-led organization that educated and raised awareness about Black culture on campus. She said that she hopes to help the CSU Family understand the adversity that still exists in our community.
“I felt that our Black student-athletes had a lot to voice and ideas for making our community realize that CSU cares about these tragedies and wants to make a change–even if it’s only a small one,” Robinson said. Though limited due to the pandemic, the organization has successfully led a few events this year, including a litter clean up in the Rosemont neighborhood as well as a T-shirt fundraiser for a local charity.
The Office of Diversity and CSU Athletics also hosted several joint events this year, including a prayer walk on National Diversity Day and a panel dialogue with North Charleston Police Department and Chief Reggie Burgess. We Choose Love shirts and hoodies are available in the CSU Bookstore for purchase to support the movement.
To close out Black History Month, the Diversity office partnered with The Career Center to offer two intriguing virtual events: one panel discusses how to close the gap in healthcare careers for minorities while the other invites successful Black alumni to share their career stories with current students.
The Career Center’s Dr. Nina Grant, former assistant dean and director, said she is excited to provide students with an opportunity to talk with successful business professionals about their career paths and discuss how they navigated and overcame barriers that are common for many people of color.
“Having a diverse workforce is essential, and we want our students of color to know that there is representation in various career fields. It is important that we reflect and celebrate the history, contributions, and successes of minorities and use these opportunities as a platform for learning, growth and collaboration,” she said. “We believe their stories will help uplift and inspire students to stay the course, be encouraged about possibilities for the future, and thrive in a professional environment.”
The Diversity office will continue its work in sharing the work of diversity from a biblical worldview, including inclusive teaching and learning strategies, antiracism education and student support practices.
One immediate upcoming change will be seen at 2021 Commencement.
“Last year, President Costin met with Black student organizations on campus and arranged for them to showcase their pride in community, culture and school through the wearing of stoles at graduation,” Grant said. “The administration’s showing of support to our students of color on campus is evident of our university’s commitment to continuous improvement in areas of diversity. This is one exciting example that we’ll all get to enjoy at commencement ceremonies moving forward.”
The Office of Diversity also plans to release a special T-shirt in the coming weeks that highlights the university’s commitment to love and fairness for Black lives. All proceeds from the sales will go to a new minority scholarship fund.
Connect with the Office of Diversity at charlestonsouthern.edu/diversity or firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional resources on antiracism education, Christian faith and diversity, and allyship and advocacy, CCCU offers a gamut of information at diversity.cccu.org.