On Thursday, Sept. 27, the ‘Hispanics in Higher Ed’ took place in the Alumni Center to celebrate the continued increase in Hispanics pursuing higher education, and to open a discussion on increasing racial diversity at the College.
The Multicultural Student Programs and Services, Office of Institutional Diversity, Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Department of Hispanic Studies collaborated in this event to prove that minorities still have an impact on the predominately white (about 80 percent) campus community.
Dr. Rénard Harris the Chief Diversity Officer of the College opened the discussion by assuring the crowd of about 20 people that the College of Charleston “wants to increase” representation from the “hispanic community.” Although, the number of hispanics has decreased at the College from 1/21 in 2013 to 1/45 in 2017.
The College of Charleston, was far from being a trailblazer for the American Civil Rights and desegregation movement. In fact, efforts by the president and some of the trustees of the College of Charleston to remain segregated throughout the 1940’s, 50’s and the early 60’s have been well documented.
The College, which has only been desegregated since 1967, is “making up for a lot of lost time” in diversity, said Dr. Harris. Because the College was not a state institution until 1970, it was relatively easy for the school to avoid the mounting social pressure to desegregate.
Hispanic students still face obstacles. DACA laws dictate that some students are not eligible for the SPECTRA program, which allows non-white students to gain credit during the summer. According to the state of South Carolina, as of 2008 students who are legally here under the DACA laws are not guaranteed in-state tuition, even if they have a state address. The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, offers no information on their ‘residency’ webpage.
Brian R. McGee, Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs clarified for the audience that there is a difference between lawful presence in the state of South Carolina and state residency, which is why granting in-state tuition is complicated and a case-by-case situation. He added that asking if he agrees with the law is a totally different question.
Domenico Ruggerio of the Center for Civic Engagement encourages all students, but especially the majority population, to recognize that “the word ally is a verb, not a noun. It is not a badge of honor, it means you stand up for others when the need arises. Prove you are an ally by being one.”
As for how the College is moving forward, Dr. Harris said “if you sell white you get white, if you sell black you get black, and hopefully, if you sell diversity, you get diversity. We will see what the future holds.”