When College of Charleston student Kevin Gadsden gets a haircut, he feels like he’s on top of the world, and knowing he can now get a haircut at a barbershop on campus makes him feel supported and seen in a whole new way.
Gadsden joined other CofC students and College officials for the grand opening of Cougar Cutz Barber Shop on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. The barbershop aims to specifically support minority students who may not be able to travel far from campus to get a haircut. And with related cultural programming organized by the Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS), Cougar Cutz is also designed to help with the recruitment and retention of male minority students.
Student Arman Frison receives a haircut from master barber Thaddeus Miller at Cougar Cutz. (Photos by Mike Ledford)
“I think the biggest word that comes to my mind is progression,” said Gadsden during the barber shop’s grand opening celebration at 97-A Wentworth St. “This is progress in every area. This is progress for the minority community. This is progress for the communities outside of us.
“The barbershop is a place that’s important to so many people,” the senior communication major added. “I’m glad everyone stuck with it because I know it’s definitely going to make a difference.”
College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu said the opening of Cougar Cutz is the “culmination of years of hard work” and support from groups across campus as they worked to find a space and obtain the proper licensing to open the barbershop.
“I know how important a place for hair care is for historically underrepresented groups of varying hair textures,” Hsu said, noting that as a teenager in China he cut hair in a rural village after moving from the city and found that it was a great way to make friends and find common ground. “Having a barbershop to have your hair cut is a place for socializing, having friends, having a good conversation or having a good gossip.”
And with Cougar Cutz now on campus, Hsu said “the College takes another important step in becoming more welcoming and inclusive to all.”
Haircuts will initially be offered at no charge by appointment only, with regular hours to be set later in the semester. Master Barber Thaddeus Miller, a longtime barber in the Charleston area and the first Black barber to work at The Citadel, will serve as the barber at Cougar Cutz. The barbershop is dedicated to the memory of Kevin McCray, a project manager with Facilities Management, who championed the barbershop and worked to bring the space to fruition prior to his death last year.
Kenyatta Grimmage speaks at the Cougar Cutz grand opening on Thursday, Sept. 15.
Kenyatta Grimmage, associate director of admissions, access initiatives and pre-College programs, spearheaded the barbershop concept in partnership with MSPS as a way to show incoming Black male students in the SPECTRA (Speedy Consolidation and Transition) program support and community. After years of planning, Grimmage told the crowd of more than 50 students, faculty, alumni and community members, that having a dedicated barbershop on campus is “truly a win for diversity, equity and inclusion” at the College.
“When you walk into the Black barbershop, you’re immediately considered family,” said Grimmage, who is a trained master barber. “You immediately feel included. You always find a place of belonging.”
And it’s that feeling that he hopes minority students find when they come for a haircut at Cougar Cutz.
“I think the challenge for us as a college is students will remember how we made them feel … When other students look at the College of Charleston and think ‘Can I find my place at the College of Charleston?’ look no further than this place right here,” Grimmage said pointing to the barbershop. “This tells you right here that we care, that we want you here and you’re welcome here at the College of Charleston.”
Alicia Caudill, executive vice president for student affairs, said Cougar Cutz Barber Shop is an important initiative that she hopes will provide a sense of belonging to minority students.
“I hope you find mentors and friends here, and I hope you laugh and enjoy yourselves as well,” she said. “I hope you leave after each visit feeling not only good about how you look, but good about who you are.”
Located behind the NPHC (National Pan-Hellenic Council) house at 97 Wentworth St., Cougar Cutz may be accessed through the P Lot at Wentworth and Glebe streets. Students may email Chris Bond at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule an appointment.
In conjunction with the new barbershop, MSPS will host Cuts and Conversations at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in the Stern Student Center, room 205. The topic of the event will be “The Transition: Moving from High School Senior to College Freshman.” Students must sign up for Cuts and Conversations through this online form.