Dear Clemson Family: Update on Diversity and Inclusiveness

November 16, 2015

Dear Clemson Family,

I reach out to you today because I want you to know that you are important to Clemson.  Each one of us makes Clemson the special place that it is.  This is an update to ensure you that we are all in this together.

Last week was a challenging one for many colleges and universities across America as voices calling for changes to campus culture regarding race and inclusiveness grew louder.  All of us charged with leading universities are paying close attention to the events of the past few weeks and are looking for lessons that may apply to our own campuses.

Social media reminds us, distressingly, that sexual harassment, racism and other forms of discrimination are part of the daily conversation right here at Clemson. Even if these posts represent the opinions of a small minority of students – and I hope that’s the case – they are a sobering reminder that some of our students face hurtful, discouraging and even vile comments on a daily basis. This must end if we are to create the kind of inclusive, supportive environment we say we want. That’s what it means to be the Clemson Family.

There are two words that must guide all of our activities moving forward: communication and transparency. We must communicate – which means talking and listening – and we must do so openly and honestly.

We’ve tried to improve the process of listening and communicating and we hope it’s something that will become a core value of how we interact as the Clemson Family. It’s already shown itself to be a positive force and I’m encouraged to report progress in our diversity and inclusion efforts.

First, our Chief Diversity Officer search committee has identified two strong candidates who will visit campus in early December. Those visits are being finalized, so please watch Inside Clemson for information on how you can participate.  Please take the opportunity to hear from these candidates through the open forums to be held on campus if you can.  We want the best person for Clemson University to help all of us move forward with diversity issues in a comprehensive and strategic way.

Second, the wording on three historical markers documenting the role of enslaved people, convict laborers and Native Americans in the early history of Clemson has been approved by the Trustee Task Force on History.  These markers have been sent to Columbia for state review and approval this week – the final step before the markers can be erected on campus. This is just one piece in a larger effort to tell the full history of Clemson. I thank the historical markers task force, history department, and naming committee for their hard work in making this idea a reality.

Third, as part of our role in supporting the work of the Trustee Task Force on History, Chief of Staff and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Max Allen has scheduled open listening sessions for Nov. 18 and 20 to give anyone a chance to contribute to the project. We also continue to accept comments on the task force website through Thanksgiving. Please add your thoughts if you have not yet done so.

Fourth, I have also asked my senior leadership team to develop a near term plan to identify better space for the Gantt Multicultural Center and access and equity offices.  I am well aware that the current location for these offices is not ideal.  I have also asked a Master Planning team, looking at future facility needs at Clemson to include, as part of their process, a long term plan for a new multicultural center.

Thank you to the students, faculty, staff and administrators who are working diligently to raise awareness, look for solutions and affect change to create a rich, inclusive environment where we all feel respected and valued.  Although we are making progress there is much more work that needs to be done and it will take all of us working together to make a positive difference.

Go Tigers!!!
Jim Clements

Related Posts

Clemson University's 15th president, James P. Clements