To solve diversity problems, change hiring, training

Some students at Coastal Carolina University wonder if they are truly a part of Teal Nation, and I am one of them.  

For a week, students in the Edwards Humanities and Fine Arts College boycotted theatre classes and gathered in unity in the Edwards courtyard. As The Chanticleer reported Sept. 23, the boycott began after Steven Earnest, a professor in the theatre department, replied to an email chain started by department chair Eric Hall.  

Hall’s initial email responded to student concerns about a list of students’ names being left on a theatre classroom white board. The professor who created the list was white, but the students listed were not.  Hall’s email acknowledged the list as “dehumanizing” and “hurtful.”  

Earnest replied to the email, “Sorry but I dont think its a big deal. Im just sad people get their feelings hurt so easily. And they are going into Theatre?” Earnest in a later email thanked students for their hate mail and stated that he was just defending his colleague.  

After the five-day boycott, a student town hall meeting on Sept. 24 was led by CCU’s Student Government Association and various school organizations to address students concerns and “racial insensitivity” here at Coastal.  

Gary Schmidt, a professor in the Edwards college, said racial insensitivity involves a lack of unawareness that an individual does not recognize nor attempt to correct.  

Schmidt said he believes it’s important for faculty to have an awareness of how “people experience different events, different actions in a different way based on not just their own personal life experiences but also on the community of the group that they identify with.”  

Some students who attended the town hall meeting, however, said they feel Coastal downplays incidents of racism, and professors don’t really care for students who are not white.  

Trinity Mccoy, an Edwards College student, said as someone who identifies as a black person, she feels lost in the theatre department. Mccoy said she would like to see more professors who look like her at Coastal.  

“It’s hard but I’m here for an education,” Mccoy said.  

In the communication department, where I am a student, only a handful of the 26 professors within the department are not white.  

Many of my professors are previous journalists, yet none of them look like me, none of them share a similar background as me, and it’s harder for them to understand the struggles I face as a Black person trying to pursue a career in this field. That is a problem many students here at also Coastal face: There’s not enough representation of diversity in the faculty.  

Some students also gave examples of microaggressions they have faced here. Euniqua Jones, president of the Coastal chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Color People, asked Chief of Staff Travis Overton to allow students to help with the issues of racial insensitivity. 

Jones said when she asked for time off after the death of her brother, a faculty member told Jones her stress was caused by her racial background. On the surface, comments like these may not seem like they have deep meanings, but overall, microaggressions like this assume people of the same race have the same cultural experiences, and that’s not true.  

One way to fix the issue of racial insensitivity is to hire a more diverse staff and faculty. This would help students feel more at home and welcomed and also help Coastal show an accurate representation of our student body and community.  

Students at the town hall meeting also suggested diversity and equity training should be made mandatory for all faculty members and staff each semester. This training is already a requirement students must complete to be a part of some organizations here on campus.  

Students who experience or witness acts of racial insensitivity, microaggressions, or bias can make a confidential, anonymous report to University Compliance through the Ethicspoint hotline online or by calling 855-595-9580. Ethicspoint is not 911 or emergency services.