Interim President Stephen C. Osborne ’73 issued the following message to the campus community on Tuesday, July 31, 2018:
Dear Campus Community:
A national conversation is taking place in higher education and politics regarding universities’ admissions policies, specifically concerning the use of race as an admissions criteria. Recently, the College’s own admissions policies were called into question, and I believe this needs clarification.
Despite reports to the contrary, the College has not made any changes to its official admissions policies regarding race. There was no secretive effort to change the College’s policies by past administrations. And there was certainly no effort to reduce the College’s commitment to promoting diversity on campus.
Prior to 2016, the College’s admissions office conducted an additional review of students of color who were not initially recommended for admission to the College. The admissions office discontinued the practice after the summer of 2016 due to the positive results of various recruitment initiatives for students of color. As such, the admissions office updated the College Board (a nonprofit organization that administers the SAT and AP exams and connects students to over 6,000 educational institutions) of this change in practice.
In consultation with the chief enrollment officer and after listening to key stakeholders across campus and reviewing our recruitment strategies, I have advised the admissions team, effective immediately, to implement an additional application review of students of color and to make it abundantly clear that, as an institution, we do and will consider race as a factor in our holistic review process. While we are pleased that our overall numbers of students of color are improving, frankly we have not moved the needle enough regarding our African-American student enrollment. We need every tool available to us in order to ensure access. As stated many times before, diversity is a core value of this institution and plays an important part in shaping our campus community.
As an institution, we are committed to equal access and equal opportunity. And I believe in transparency and accountability, and, during my tenure, I will work with campus partners to make certain that we are meeting our public mission and upholding our core values.
At the College, we have consistently worked to improve diversity and inclusion on our campus because we believe it enriches our learning and teaching experience, and, simply put, we know it makes us a better society. Our commitment to creating a more inclusive campus community is reflected in a number of our initiatives, including the Top 10 Percent pilot program, the Charleston Bridge Program, the Crossing the Cistern Program, SPECTRA, the Multicultural Overnight Visit Experience (M.O.V.E.), and the Junior and Senior Projects (two different weeklong, college preparatory programs serving multicultural/first-generation rising high school juniors and seniors).
The College has made significant strides over the years in becoming a more accessible, welcoming, diverse and inclusive university. Many people and groups on campus are working extremely hard to recruit the best and brightest students to the College and to raise our diversity profile – and they are succeeding. But, of course, there are still many opportunities for improvement and greater support, and we know we can always do better. Here are a few facts regarding the progress we are making:
· This past year, we had record numbers of applications from students of color and accepted more students of color than in any previous year in the College’s history – more than 1,800 accepted students.
· Students of color make up 20 percent of the incoming freshman class, representing one of the highest percentages to date.
· Our 2016-17 retention rate for African-American students was 81.8 percent. The national average is 64.8 percent.
· The College’s African-American four-year graduation rate has increased from 36.1 percent (2011) to 59.4 percent (2017), which greatly exceeds the national average of 21.4 percent.
Let me be clear: The College of Charleston is deeply committed to diversity and inclusion. In just a few weeks, we will welcome one of our most diverse classes in the College’s history, which is a testament to all of our collective hard work. Through our shared commitment to diversity, we will keep moving the College forward and continue to foster a climate that is inclusive of all of our students, faculty and staff.
Stephen C. Osborne ’73