College Life On the Pulse Personal Opinions

Chief Diversity Officer – An Opinion

On my radio show “On the Pulse”, I noted and reported the visit by Chief Diversity Officer candidates to Greenville University in the month of November. Often, I try to make sure that my reporting on particular events is devoid of a direct correlation to my bias, be that internal or external. This article, however, covers a question that I have been hearing from particularly keen students, whispers of faculty, and key staff. That question is quite simply this: what happened in this hiring process?

From Greenville University

Initial thoughts from the colloquium and breakfasts are scribbled down in my notes and gave me a feeling of euphoria. Both candidates, that made it to this point in the process of a campus visit, were black educators in their own rights. In their colloquium, the experience and perspective of those individuals shone through the presentations that they gave, and in the questions, they received about diversity on campus. Some of their ideas were small, and based entirely on shaping dialogue and discussion on campus. Others were bigger community ideas, that would transition the institution to a more positive environment, empowering maligned student groups in a way that has yet to be attained. These two were authors, administrators, spiritual guides, and leaders that stood the potential of really improving the campus culture.

 

Since the writing of this article Greenville University has announced the hire of Terrell Carter, who has presented himself before the university with courage and clarity. However, I believe it is imperative to focus on two points, as students, that may present a counter-narrative to the decision at hand.

 

 

  • Qualifications were not explicitly in Carter’s favor. In my original article, I noted the qualifications that both individuals had with regards to diversity at Greenville University during the time of their interviews and colloquium. McLemore brought eleven years of “diversity” experience to the table, and a wealth of relevant knowledge about changing and crafting diversity plans. McLemore also held a deanship and focused on diversity and inclusion in her dissertation. Carter, objectively, did not hold this direct set of qualifications. Indirectly, he had years of experience in areas of community building, as well as experience in spiritual leadership, a doctorate in congregational health, and international work that could be helpful to the institution in the realm of diversity. However, it is hardly disputed that McLemore’s qualifications and direct experience far outweighed the years of indirect experience gained at the university level.

    It’s also important to note that, while both of the candidates held excellent positions and degrees in fields helpful to Greenville University, McLemore also held a degree in Higher Education Administration, which is a vastly different educational degree path from a Doctorate in Congregational health.
     

 

  • Carter has an interesting connection to police officers, at a time almost immediately following campus protest years. After a growing fervor between student and staff groups regarding the plight of people of color on campus, we saw the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, this movement has, indeed, quieted itself to some degree. However, that doesn’t make the institution’s move any less visible to students who have participated in that movement. There was care and caution made in this decision that provides a sense of clarity or demonstrable certainty about the institution’s decision. Students, faculty, and staff were all given access to critical points of the hiring process, as well as the opportunity to ask questions of the people being interviewed. Even so, this willingness to be open to ideas is critical. Though we can assume that Dr. Carter will continue to be willing in discussions on diversity and inclusion at Greenville, the inherent biased towards a particular group is visible, whether or not it exists in actuality.  
  • Carter continues the type of administrative style that has been at Greenville University. As a person who has been able to observe the administration’s style since 2015, I can tell you that there has been a visible shift towards appeasing a traditional conservative understanding of the institution. This, in and of itself, is not inherently good or bad. On the contrary, taking a position is something that this institution has seldom done discernibly. (According to sources from the beginnings of protest movements on Greenville University’s campus, the problem of a lacking institutional stance on most issues is what powered the movement against the administration from within the student group.) The lack of positioning, in the case of the University, has created a definitive “feel” to administrative work. High-level administrators are often defined by students I interview as being focused on “listening but not doing”.

 

 

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Media by Ivy Lyons

This state of the institution is something that may, to some, necessitate a change in order to propel discussions on diversity forward, as the institution is often described as needing “change” not “reinvigorating”. In the colloquium, I asked questions of both candidates that had an underlying theme of whether change would be accessible. For McLemore, the question was focused on the difficult topic of LGBTQIA+ students disenfranchised by the institution. In order to combat that problem, change is more than necessary. On the contrary, it is critical to the survival of an already maligned population. McLemore took that challenge,  and stated that the institution would “need to gain resources for that student group”. Carter faced the same question type when I asked about “doing more than listening to the student body,” by asking the question, “who do you listen to first?” Now, the answer to this question may seem a bit obstructed to some, as my question gave the option of “students, alumni, and faculty or staff members.” Most faculty and staff, who I’ve asked this question, instinctively state that the students are who should be listened to when it comes to discussions on any sort of campus problem. Carter, however, did not state that. He stated an open ear to every part of the discussion. When pressed on inaction by the institution, the statement, “all we can do is listen,”  is an immediate red flag.

 

Dr. Carter will be the Chief Diversity Officer, tasked with the representation and application of good institutional diversity policy, and the creation of a diversity plan for a community of over one thousand people. Without a moment’s pause, I state that these positions need to be made plain to the students that will be represented on the highest level by Dr. Carter. While I will not be here to be personally affected by this hiring decision, my concern for community and continuity matter so much more. I hope that the institution will supply him with the staff, funding, and overall support necessary to create long-lasting positive impacts on the community for students of all races, genders, classes, orientations, nationalities, etc…

 

I will continue to update this story as more information is gathered.

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