The following message from Interim President Stephen C. Osborne ’73 was sent to the campus community on Nov. 1, 2018.
Dear Campus Community:
Yesterday, some members of the College of Charleston softball team wore Halloween costumes on campus that were racially and culturally insensitive. This poor decision-making by some of our student-athletes causes harm on our campus and in the greater community. This incident does not reflect our university’s core values of diversity, community and respect for the individual. I am severely disappointed in these student-athletes and that something like this has, once again, happened at our university.
The softball team has written an apology to Athletics Director Matt Roberts and me, which is attached so that our entire campus community can read it. I accept their apology, but now comes the hard part: where we put action to words and make meaningful change. In line with that, the softball team will be undergoing diversity and inclusion training beginning next week.
Despite multiple messages from members of the administration and student affairs to the student body cautioning against offensive costumes or party décor, we still find ourselves in a place of hurt today. Clearly, we have failed to properly educate and impart on some of our students the importance of thinking before they act in order to make decisions that do no harm.
I have charged Executive Vice President for Student Affairs Alicia Caudill, Chief Diversity Officer Rénard Harris and Athletics Director Matt Roberts with developing some campus initiatives and events that will enable us to discuss this incident as well as educate our broader campus community so that something like this may never happen again.
The Campus Climate Education Team, which is made up of faculty, staff and students, will hold Open Office Hours in order to allow members of our campus community to drop-in and discuss their feelings on this incident and our campus climate. The dates and times for these meetings are Thursday, Nov. 8, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and Friday, Nov. 9, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Office of Institutional Diversity’s Conference Room, which is located in Robert Scott Small Building, Room 241 (The Eddie Ganaway Diversity Learning Center).
While I’m sending this message in the context of a few inappropriate Halloween costume choices, it’s much bigger than that. This is about the type of university we want to be and what we truly value on our campus. I cannot stress enough that the College of Charleston is a university where all are welcome and where all will be respected regardless of race, gender, political ideology, religious affiliation, and/or sexual orientation and identity. We are a diverse and inclusive campus community and that is one of our greatest strengths as a university because we are able to learn from each other, engage with each other and expand each other’s world view. Yes, we talk about inclusion a lot, but we need to truly live it.
I’m asking all of us to make a renewed commitment to standing up to cultural stereotyping, bigotry and racial insensitivity. We need to be more aware of the power of language and actions and the intentional and/or unintentional impact they can have on people. What may seem innocent or OK to you may actually be hurtful to someone else. In short, we – students, faculty and staff – need to be more aware of our own words and actions as well as hold each other accountable if we are to build a better and stronger university.
Ultimately, we all want to be treated with respect and kindness, and if we keep that in the front of our minds when we interact with others, progress toward a more civil, inclusive and peaceful community will be made. I have faith that we can be better and will do better moving forward.
Stephen C. Osborne ’73
Interim President, College of Charleston