Clemson University has committed itself to doubling the number of underrepresented minority faculty by 2025 and setting specific goals by August for increasing the underrepresented student population.
Those are two of eight specific items President Jim Clements issued Thursday in response to grievances made by students who have been camping on the steps of Sikes Hall for the past nine days.
But his response fell on deaf ears.
The students decided even before Clements’ email went out that they were going to suspend the sit-in and ignore the president’s overture, instead hinting the protests could resume in the fall.
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A.D. Carson, a graduate student who helped stage the protest, said the students were “unwilling to wait” on administrators to do their jobs.
“We have decided to suspend the Sikes sit-in until further notice,” Carson said.
“We don’t have confidence in the administration,” he added. “Another day would not have given us any more confidence that they were going to do what they were supposed to do.”
With the end of the semester looming, he hinted that the protest “can very well resume” in the fall.
The president’s list touches on the key points in a list of grievances the students issued in December 2014 after a fraternity Christmas party that mocked hip hop culture.
Leaders of the group met privately with administrators earlier in the week and said they heard no specifics such as timelines as to when things were going to be done, and names of people who were going to be held accountable.
Clements’ letter names one or more university officials who will take “ownership” and be responsible for fulfilling each item, and a timeline.
The letter includes finding new temporary space for the Gantt Multicultural Center by this fall and setting up a committee of students, faculty, staff and administration to identify a long-term location by December, which was another of the key points of contention between the administration and students.
“I believe these are solid and meaningful steps towards creating a better campus for everyone,” Clements said in the letter to students. “If we are committed to working together, there is nothing we cannot overcome and achieve.”
Other items on the list are:
▪ Committing to “more effective” communications when malicious incidents occur. Clements has been criticized for sending out an email denouncing the defacing of a banner on African American history without saying specifically that someone hung bananas on it.
▪ Working with student organizations to ensure an equitable distribution of funding to student groups.
▪ Telling the complete story of historical buildings on campus, including Tillman Hall, named for a violent racist.
▪ Requiring all employees to participate in diversity training.
▪ Adding “diversity and inclusive excellence” as one of the students’ core values.
Freshman Alice Bridgeman said the church has formed a Facebook group called Tigers Against Racism to “try to spread love instead of racism.”
Wearing red T-shirts with the slogan, “Many Races One Blood,” the group set up a table on the sidewalk and asked students to sign pledges against discrimination and racism.
Racism at Clemson seems to happen more behind the scenes, on social media, Bridgeman said. One Clemson student was charged a day earlier with making threatening comments on the anonymous social media platform Yik Yak.
But Carson and other minority students and faculty told a different story.
In an interview with the school newspaper, a Clemson professor said she was sitting on the steps on the third night of the sit-in when a car drove by and the passengers inside yelled the N-word.