UofSC to require incoming freshmen to take diversity training course this fall

University officials say the final version of this program should be ready by fall orientation

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —Some students at the University of South Carolina will be learning new lessons about diversity and tolerance before coming to campus this fall.

The university announced a new diversity training course required for all incoming freshmen as part of their new student orientation.

Dr. Tracey Weldon, the Interim Chief Diversity Officer at the University of South Carolina, says more students have to come to her in the last few weeks calling for a diversity course, especially after an incident in April where people hacked into a Zoom call hosted by the university’s Association of African American Students (AAAS) while using racist imagery and language.

“The program itself is something that the students have been asking for for quite some time. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we put that in place,” Dr. Weldon said. “The timing was reinforced when everything happened this weekend, that it’s important that it happens.”

The university has investigated a couple of incidents over the past few months involving students and what they have posted on social media. On Sunday, University President Bob Caslen announced on Twitter that leadership was investigating a post a student made that he described as “racist” and “hateful”. The university announced Monday that the student is no longer enrolled at the university.

Back in January, the university investigated a post from a student, who is no longer enrolled at the school, involving a racial slur. In regard to that incident, President Caslen tweeted that “racist messages run contrary to who we are and we can — and must — do better.”

Alongside these incidents, school officials also investigated a series of fliers containing racist phrases that appeared in buildings across campus in January 2018.

The university is still finalizing what will be featured in the diversity program, saying it will be offered alongside anti-discrimination and anti-harrasment courses already required for freshmen to take. 

Dr. Weldon says the content of this program will likely include scenarios and different strategies about how to be more tolerant and accepting of other groups on and off campus.

President Caslen says this program reinforces the university’s commitment to fight discrimination, saying in a letter to students and staff:

If we are to begin the process of healing the wounds of racism, hate and bigotry that have brought us to this current tipping point, we must engage one another in thoughtful dialogue about our individual and collective experiences. We must do the work of educating ourselves about the harmful impact of racism and discrimination in all of its manifestations.”

JT McLawhorn with the Columbia Urban League says this program reflects how the university is committed towards building a better campus community.

“Diversity should help students to have a more cohesive environment, it should enhance learning, it should help people to find common ground. You’re talking about a process where people’s differences are not going to come in the way of them coming together,” said McLawhorn.

Dr. Weldon says she’s hopeful the program can inspire other students to take initiative and break down barriers so students can talk with each other as opposed to each other.

“The online module is really just the beginning, but we hope that students who come to UofSC will have many opportunities to reinforce those skills as they matriculate through their degree programs,” Dr. Weldon said.

Dr. Weldon says her team will look over possible scenarios to include in the program over the next few weeks. She says the final version should be ready to go by the time students come back to campus.

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