Recent national events compel Claflin University to reestablish itself as a leading institution of higher education with regard to promoting excellence in diversity and inclusion. These are two core values on which the University was founded. It’s in the University’s DNA. An excerpt from Claflin’s original charter declares “No instructor in said University shall ever be required by the Trustees to have any particular complexion or to profess any particular religious opinions as a test of office, no student shall be refused admission, to or denied any of the privileges, honors, or degrees of, said University on account of race, complexion, or religious opinions which he may entertain.” The charter was signed by then Governor R. K. Scott on December 18, 1869.
Today, by design, Claflin’s diverse educational community is one of its greatest strengths. The campus community, including faculty, staff and students, is represented by 40 countries and our own United States of America. This international flavor bodes well for an institution that honors the freedoms contained in the constitution of our democratic nation.
I am proud to continue in the tradition of former Claflin presidents who led the University to outstanding accomplishments in regard to diversity. President Hubert V. Manning, who served from 1956 to 1984, is notable for leading the University through the turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement. Manning stood firm in the face of unfathomable challenges and University students were bloodied but unbowed for the cause of freedom and justice. As a Claflin student from 1961 to 1965, I participated in the protests in Orangeburg and witnessed those that occurred in cities and states across the land.
So today, in the spirit of my predecessors and as we move forward into the 21st Century, I challenge Claflin University to embrace a vigorous commitment to becoming recognized as a leading institution that pursues excellence in diversity and inclusion. The formula for getting us there is to understand, respect and appreciate other cultures, customs and traditions.
Diversity and Inclusion are among the goals in The Claflin University Strategic Plan 2016-2021 “Claflin LEADS: A Shared Vision for the 21st Century,” in which LEADS is an acronym for Leadership and Professional Development, Experiential Learning, Academic Excellence, Diversity and Inclusion and Student Success. The goal relating to diversity and inclusion states that Claflin will develop and implement an action plan that ensures excellence in diversity and inclusion among students, faculty and staff and the greater University constituency.
An essential element in the Strategic Plan is Claflin’s overriding future aspiration. Accordingly, the vision for the future is “Claflin University will be recognized as a leading 21st Century institution of higher education that develops a diverse and inclusive community of globally engaged visionary leaders.” The University’s vision and strategic goals (along with other elements of the plan) are the result of a collaborative effort by faculty, staff, students, and alumni and approved by the Board of Trustees to define the course of the University’s journey towards excellence.
They clearly set forth our desire and our determination to become a model diverse community of learning, exploration and self-examination whose impact will be felt across the state of South Carolina and the nation. I fully embrace the vision and goal outlined in our Strategic Plan and call upon all members of the Claflin Community and broader community to share the vision and commitment to diversity and inclusion.
During the coming months, the University will hold a number of forums to illustrate this commitment. The University’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion will continue its work on this very important goal. Its work has become more urgent and necessary in light of the nation’s current political climate.
I also call upon the Orangeburg community, the state and the nation to join us. We want to be and we want our community to be a place where we all feel safe, valued and respected.
Dr. Henry N. Tisdale is the President of Claflin University