Clemson expands its reach to promote inclusive excellence
CLEMSON — The Clemson University Office of Inclusion and Equity is taking a holistic approach to carrying out the goals and objectives outlined in the ClemsonForward strategic plan to embrace and promote an inclusive environment for higher learning.
Chief Diversity Officer Lee Gill and Executive Vice President and Provost Robert Jones co-chair the Clemson University Council on Diversity and Inclusion (CUCDI). Gill and Jones established the council to ensure students, faculty, staff and community members have the ability to share, address and resolve issues facing the university.
“The CUCDI is meant to represent every member of the Clemson community because each person contributes to our diversity and each person is responsible to make Clemson truly inclusive,” Gill said.
The nearly 30-member CUCDI is composed of faculty, staff, students and area community leaders.
“The CUCDIU is one of the most positive developments I have witnessed since joining Clemson three years ago,” said Jones. “As early as its first meeting, I could feel the determination of the whole Clemson community and its common focus on building a more welcoming and inclusive environment.”
Deans from all seven colleges, the library and Student Affairs also appointed representatives to serve on the CUCDI alongside community leaders from the Pickens County NAACP, the president of the Urban League of the Upstate and the president of Hispanic Alliance. Gill said the guidance and insight from members of the community help shape the narrative for inclusive excellence at Clemson. President James P. Clements and Chief of Staff Max Allen are ex officio members of the council.
“The diversity and inclusion initiatives we put in place will succeed only if everyone sees strong support from leadership. We have that,” Gill said.
Clements elevated former task forces to commission status to make them permanent. Task forces serve a purpose for a limited time, while commissions ensure constituents have a permanent voice. The CUCDI consists of five president’s commissions:
- The President’s Commission on Accessibility advises and makes recommendations to the CUCDI about all areas impacting accessibility. “Promoting accessibility and equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities enhances quality of life and strengthens our community through diversity,” said chair Priscilla Harrison.
- The President’s Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs fosters partnerships among faculty, staff, students, community members and Latinos to strengthen quality of life through cultural and educational programs, services and advocacy. “We seek to bridge cultural divides and create a welcoming educational environment for all,” said Derek Wilmott, its chair. “This commission was established to assist in creating a path to higher education for Latinos in South Carolina and to bring attention to their socio-economic impact in the state.”
- The President’s Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) advises on matters affecting LGBTQ people to ensure the university appropriately addresses issues of equity, safety and welfare for LGBTQ faculty, staff, students and guests. The commission aspires to unite various organizations working on LGBTQ programs, education and outreach at Clemson to help create a more welcoming and inclusive campus environment. “The President’s LGBTQ Commission is working to help create a climate of acceptance and inclusion for our queer and transgender communities and Clemson University,” said Joshua Morgan, chair.
- The President’s Commission on Black Faculty and Staff formed in 1998 to document the status of black faculty and staff and advise the president on specific recommendations for improving quality of life for black employees. “This is my seventh year on the commission and I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve Clemson in this leadership role. My fellow commissioners and I strive to improve diversity and inclusion. It is rewarding to see the progress we are making,” said Karon Donald, its chair.
- The President’s Commission on Women discerns the status of women at Clemson and documents findings; discovers and pursues the removal of institutional barriers identified by the commission; and collects information and/or conducts research regarding issues affecting women. It also explores problem areas that limit equal opportunities and advancement. The commission pledges to encourage and inspire women to become leaders, problem-solvers and innovators who make meaningful contributions to American society. “Our hope is we can help make a difference by raising awareness on women’s issues and showcasing the many accomplishments women make daily through hard work and dedication to students, staff and faculty,” said Tina White, its chair.
Gill said diversity and inclusion cannot be the responsibility of one person, college or office.
“To create the climate we’re aiming for, diversity must be in the very air we breathe,” Gill said.
“Clearly, Clemson has ‘upped its game’ in the development of mutual respect and determination to seek and deliver on common goals,” Jones said.
The CUCDI will submit quarterly reports for publication on the Office of Inclusion and Equity website.