…and we’re off! The 2020-21 academic year has now commenced, and what a strange world it is. First, I must commend the faculty and students for carrying on in spite of everything and doing it, for the most part, very well indeed. That must be the Clemson spirit everyone has been telling me about.
I also need to express my admiration for the upper administration and their decision-making track record since this all began. In the past six months, I’ve had the privilege of transitioning from one university to another, and being the father of a college student at a third institution, all during this crisis. That gave me deeper insight into how the three universities handled the pandemic differently, some definitely doing it better than others. I have been consistently impressed with Clemson, which from the start avoided going with the pack and instead had the courage to chart its own course after extremely careful and thoughtful deliberation.
One of the things I regret most about this current situation is that I have not yet had a chance to interact with the students. But that’s not entirely true either, because I have indeed had the opportunity to work with a handful of engaged students who are dedicated to addressing issues of race and diversity on campus and beyond.
I have been so impressed with the efforts in this College, some of which are featured in this newsletter. For instance, the latest expansion of English Professor Rhondda Robinson Thomas’ “Call My Name” initiative continues to recover and share the stories of generations of African Americans who lived and worked on Clemson land.
And consider the recent discovery of unknown graves of enslaved people on Clemson grounds. The investigation of the African American Burial Site, which is being led by Paul Anderson, the Clemson University campus historian, came about after students Sarah Adams and Morgan Molosso expressed concerns about neglect of the African American Burial Ground within Woodland Cemetery. These same students are now organizing a task force so their peers can engage with the project.
Another student-driven initiative is the “We CU” campaign developed entirely by students with guidance from Philosophy Professor Diane Perpich and Theatre Professor Shannon Robert. One of the first results is a video poem written and performed by an English major, Kapreece Dorrah. We have shared his video on the You Tube Channel for the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.
I also met with a delegation from cNOMAS, the Clemson chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students, which is headed by undergraduate student Michael Urueta and under the supervision of Senior Lecturer Clarissa Mendez in the School of Architecture. For more than an hour we talked about how we can improve the situation and opportunities for minority architecture students at Clemson, about new courses that could be offered, outreach to the community, and organizing events on campus to facilitate networking regionally and nationally to help get their careers jump-started. It was a productive and uplifting conversation.
With all the negativity and violence we have been witnessing in this nation over the past weeks and months, I find it nothing short of inspiring and deeply moving to see Clemson students reacting by writing poetry, having the courage to explore and face our past, and seeking ways to build, literally. It is what we do as a College and reminds us why the arts, humanities and architecture are not optional extras but central to our existence – our moral compass. It also fills me with hope for the future, and genuinely moves me to say:
Nicholas Vazsonyi, Dean
College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities
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