USC chief diversity officer John Dozier appeared at Tuesday night's Student Government cabinet meeting to talk about ongoing plans to increase diversity and multiculturalism on the university's campus.
Dozier, who has been working to analyze the progression of diversity on campus for six years, advocates for higher representation of minority students both in enrollment and throughout the application process.
”Universities haven't always done a good job of making sure that identity is not just a part of the co-curricular conversation, but as part of the center of what we do as a university as a part of our teaching, learning, research, scholarship and community engagement,” said Dozier.
Dozier presented enrollment statistics for the past few years. Non-white enrollment averaged at 20.3 percent with white enrollment at about 80 percent. The graphs elicited questions, comments and ideas from the cabinet and others in attendance.
Some of the cabinet wanted to know why the university isn’t reaching more diverse applicants. Students asked questions about outreach and enrollment with the goal of enrolling more students of multiple backgrounds in mind.
“What are we kind of doing across the states to get people from all across the states and especially people in those lower income areas to find our college?“ said Rebecca Early, secretary of environmental affairs.
This question opened a discussion about possible outreach programs that would further Dozier‘s diversity initiative.
Dozier was also sure to congratulate Student Government on their strong representation of students of differing identities.
“We’ve had a lot of representation in Student Government and that's because of you as students, who have in many ways lived up to Martin Luther King’s dream,” Dozier said.
Dozier said the University of South Carolina is ahead of Clemson in campus diversity, but not for long.
“Percentage-wise, they don’t have the same number of minority students as we do, but they’re catching up,” Dozier said.
Initiatives Dozier and the cabinet discussed include: faculty affinity groups, faculty mentorship programs, the climate survey, dive-in lunches, and forums with the provost.
While USC continues to seek improvements in initiatives for diversity and inclusion, Dozier said, it has made incredible progress, and hopes to cultivate an environment where every student can succeed.
“When I talk about diversity and inclusion I am not talking solely about racially-underrepresented students, we want to make sure every student in the University of South Carolina can succeed," Dozier said. "I want to hear from our students who are struggling with how they work through their relationship with other people’s identities. I want to hear from all students, because the only way to make a university better is getting out of our echo chambers ... in ways that we are able to embrace a broader definition of diversity and inclusion.”
Lyric Swinton, secretary of inclusion and equity, relayed her own personal experience with USC’s outreach programs, citing them as a reason for her attending the university.
Speaking about a summer camp she was a counselor for, she said giving high school students more interaction with diverse members of campus sooner could be integral in drawing in more applications.
“Its one thing for them to come to USC's campus through the summer but they aren’t going to see anybody,” Swinton said. “All of those students have come onto USC campus for every summer for freshman through senior year ... and none of them would actually come to USC. One of the things that they said is that they didn't feel that USC had a place for them. ... Representation matters.”