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Wofford college embarks on new visioning process focused on diversity, equity, inclusion

SPARTANBURG—A group of Wofford College students has requested that three residence halls be renamed, as each is named after former presidents of the college who are documented as slaveholders.

In light of this, and given events taking place across the country and the conversations led by Wofford students, alumni, faculty and staff, Wofford has formed a 16-member steering committee.

The committee is taking a closer look at the college’s history and present while taking part in a new visioning process that’s focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

The committee will make recommendations by the end of the academic year.

In a letter that Wofford President Nayef Samhat shared with the campus community during the summer, the college is taking measures to become what Samhat called “a diverse, welcoming and inclusive home to all.”

“Our mission and core values include diversity and inclusiveness, yet progress has been slow and often not substantive enough to overcome the experiences that too many of our students, staff, faculty and alumni have lived,” he wrote. “A plan for immediate action followed by a process for institutional change are outlined below, but first I would like to thank those who have been working diligently in diversity, equity and inclusion for their time, energy and creativity. That we still have work to do is not a reflection on your efforts or of your support for student success.”

Samhat said the college will immediately begin or continue the following:

  • Provide anti-racism and anti-bias training for the campus community;
  • Review campus safety procedures and commit to police-oriented anti-bias and anti-racism education;
  • Create a new student marketing committee and schedule unconscious-bias training for the student committee and staff in the college’s Office of Marketing and Communications;
  • Incorporate anti-racism and anti-bias education into the FYI curriculum;
  • Relocate the Back of the College memorial to a more visible location;
  • Create a new Black alumni website to support the group’s history and tradition of excellence;
  • Follow this with a new website to feature women’s history;
  • Recommit to eliminating implicit bias through the college’s Search Advocate Program;
  • Evaluate and develop new strategies for the recruitment of underrepresented students;
  • Renew efforts to increase the number of NPHC organizations on campus;
  • Engage academic departments in consideration of diversity in their existing curricula and guide discussion of how best to incorporate diverse perspectives in curricula going forward;
  • Support with internal funding the AAC&U Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation program;
  • Sponsor a symposium that considers Wofford College and race relations;
  • Engage a cohort of faculty in a yearlong workshop on inclusive pedagogy led by Teach.Equity. Now; and
  • Review the Student Handbook and disciplinary processes for the purpose of finding and removing biased policies or practices.

“Even as we all commit ourselves to immediate changes, we must use the opportunity that this moment in history presents to carry forward not just conversation but action to build a stronger and more inclusive Wofford College,” Samhat said. “That starts with thinking broadly and deeply as a campus community about race, equity, diversity and inclusion.”

The Steering Committee includes professors, deans, trustees, students, staff and others.

Samhat also encourages people to visit Wofford.edu/dei to view the updated website and to review the 2019 Diversity Report as a baseline for future improvement.

5 Comments

  • To all my Wofford friends and alums:
    The contents of this article have upset me greatly. Why erase our history? Do that, and we forget it, perhaps only to repeat it. Wofford would not be the institution it is today without our past presidents, faculty and students. No one is perfect, and I daresay all of us have done things we are not proud of in our lives. We all are subjects of the the particular place and time we grew up in. The same goes for Wofford presidents. They were all great visionaries who were products of their time in history. Should we throw out the baby with the bath water? These students knew that Wofford was a great institution with a past. They chose to apply and were admitted. Now a small group is whining about the past and want things changed. Why chose to attend if you don’t like the names of buildings? Why chose to attend if there is not enough diversity, etc. to suit you?
    I know there are things Wofford could improve on like preparing everyone to get in graduate school if they want to or getting the job they want. Focusing on changing your ratio of students according to the color of their skin is absurd. This is blatant racism. Select the most qualified students and color of skin will not be an issue. There are excellent students of every color. Work on that, and history is just history. How does it hurt you today?
    Some of you may agree with my sentiments, and some of you may not. This has infuriated an old man, me, and I couldn’t let it be without expressing my opinion.

    • Jerry, well said!

    • I am also a graduate of Wofford (Class of 1970) and became very aware of President Samhat’s agenda soon after the English faculty issued a public statement in January which claimed, among other things, that acts of racial violence are occurring daily on the campus, and the college is wracked by systemic racism and white supremacist attitudes.
      A small group of concerned alumni met with Dr. Samhat and his cabinet and all agreed that the English faculty’s statement was not factual. But he declined to criticize the faculty or set the record straight at this time.
      Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of alumni are being kept in the dark about the controversy. I think this is a big mistake.
      Thanks!

  • Mr. Stallworth’s cogent comments were very relevant regarding Wofford’s disproportionate emphasis on racial issues.
    The Wofford English Department’s implications of our alumni being systemic racists and white supremacists are totally without any evidence and are insulting to most Wofford alumni.
    All reasonable Wofford graduates agree that abject racism, racial injustice, and police brutality are intolerable in today’s society.
    Dr. Samhat’s refusal to rebuke the faculty’s bigoted statements has empowered overreaction by the administration’s offering biased programs on anti-racism and by directives to the faculty and student body to implement redundant racial sensitivity programs.

    The English faculty should be reminded that :
    Wofford College was the 1st independent college in S.C. to integrate, and the 1st to have a black member of the Board of Trustees.
    In the 60’s & 70’s , Wofford students and alumni participated in sit-ins and marches in support of civil rights movements, particularly the Voting Rights Act.
    Wofford supported the founding of Africa University in Zimbabwe by the Methodist Church.

    The students who allege that racial discrimination deters opportunities for black graduates should be reminded that America has a long list of black presidents and CEO’s of major companies.
    A few other successful names come to mind : Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, Virginia Governor Doug Wilder (1990-94), Craig Melvin.
    The West Point graduating class of 2019 included 34 black women and 110 total black graduates.
    All these accomplishments would not have happened 40 years ago. We should be saluting these gains, not claiming victimhood.

    Dr. Samhat’s Presidential Committee on Diversity & Inclusion has achieved effective results over the past several years. The limited college funds could be better directed toward increasing financial aid to needy students than being spent on additional staff persons and programs aimed at addressing minimal racism culture on campus.

    A new Steering/Listening Committee, which has no representation by alumni beyond four Trustees, is not needed to understand that Wofford College is not a bastion of white supremacy.

    The administration and faculty should focus more on the open education of the students, less attention on the racial indoctrination of those students, and better understand the experienced vision of Wofford’s real world graduates.

  • Wofford is fast becoming an institution of “higher indoctrination” as opposed to an institution of Higher education”. Money talks! Stop feeding the “mouths”that spew the indoctrination.

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