C of C committee approves diversity plan
College of Charleston sophomore Denzell Moton is comfortable being one of a small number of black students at the downtown school.
He grew up in a racially mixed environment, and attended a predominantly white high school in Aiken. But he knows that for some other black students, fitting in and feeling at home is a lot more difficult.
Moton, who is 19 and a business administration major, now leads a group called Brothers on a New Direction or BOND, for struggling black male students.
Debbie Counts, the college’s associate director of admissions, recruited Moton to the college. She’s been working for the past few years to boost minority enrollment at the college. And she expects the students she brings in to help her with that task.
Counts runs many programs aimed at helping middle- and high-school-age minority youth enroll at the college. And if a new campus diversity plan approved by a key Board of Trustees committee Friday gets a nod from the full board in April, Counts’ programs likely will have a lot more support.
Moton said he once acted as host to a black male potential student from a small South Carolina town who was interested in, but somewhat uncomfortable at, the college. But after the visit, that student said, “I can make it here. I can thrive,” Moton said.
Counts said the college has much to offer minority students. “If you come here with an open mind, and you take advantage of opportunities, the sky’s the limit,” she said.
The five-year, Diversity Strategic Plan that the Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee approved has been in the works for the past 15 months, and has seven major goals.
One is to recruit, retain and graduate greater numbers of qualified minority and international students and those who are among the first generation in their families to attend college. That includes boosting the number of black students by 43 percent over the next five years.
In the baseline year of 2010, only 729 students, or 7 percent of the student body who identified their race were black. If that number were increased by 43 percent, that would mean the college would enroll 313 more black students.
That’s important because the College of Charleston has few black students compared with many of the state’s other public colleges, and because South Carolina’s population is about one-third black.
The plans’ other goals are to: create a more diverse faculty and staff; create a welcoming and supportive environment; infuse diversity in the curriculum; collect data to assess progress; develop a financial plan to pay for diversity initiatives and disseminate an annual report on diversity.
College President George Benson said the plan was long overdue. “It’s about time,” he said. And although completing such a plan was a big step, he said, following through with it is even more important. “It’s one thing to approve a plan. It’s another to implement it,” he said.
Provost George Hynd said another important part of the plan is to get approval from the state’s Commission on Higher Education for a major in African-American studies. The college now only offers a minor.
He thinks the college can do that in about a year. And that will attract more black students and faculty. It also will send a message to the community that the college is serious about diversity, he said. “It tells the African-American community we’re serious about your heritage.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.