President's Message to Students About Inclusivity and Respect

Dear Gamecocks,

Over the past several weeks, the national dialogue around yearbook pictures rooted in bigotry and prejudice have again reminded us as a nation, and as a university community, of how ignorant attitudes about race can manifest themselves in painful ways. These attitudes have no place in our society.

While today's campus climate is one that fosters inclusivity and respect for all, we recognize that our shared history is not immune from ignorance and malice. Just recently, our university archivist undertook a content review of the digitalized archives of the Garnet and Black, the University's yearbook that was published from 1899-1994. While the overwhelming majority of content within these pages celebrate our university's successes and traditions, there are a number of offensive photos depicting white students in blackface and other offensive content. In no uncertain terms, we denounce these photos and the mindsets they represent.

We also recognize that these photos will cause pain and anguish among members of our community. As we work to create and foster an environment where every member of our university community is equally valued and respected, we must make it clear that bigotry, racism and misogyny have no place at Carolina.

To this end, we are guided by a set of common values that are articulated in our Carolinian Creed, which calls on us to respect the dignity of all members of the campus community and discourage bigotry, while striving to learn from differences in people, ideas and opinions. We are also committed to efforts that engage and educate our campus community through year-round curricular and co-curricular programming that promote these ideals. These programs include a diversity lunch series for students to engage with me and a Finding Common Ground series to discuss relevant social issues on campus and beyond, among many others. I ask that you each take a few minutes to learn more about these opportunities on our Office of Diversity and Inclusion website.

As a community, we have made great progress toward a more complete understanding of our university's past in recent years through the commemoration of the Desegregation Garden, the installation of the plaques on the Horseshoe recognizing the role of enslaved people in the construction and operation of our campus and, most recently, the dedication of the Richard T. Greener statue, USC's first African-American professor. Similarly, we're reaching into the South Carolina community through our SC Collaborative for Race and Reconciliation, The Welcome Table SC and the Center for Civil Rights History and Research.

These photos give us another opportunity, as a community, to address and learn from the demons of the past. Together we will continue to take a proactive stance on diversity and inclusion. While we cannot change the past, we will continue to work every day to create an environment in which each of us feels welcome and can thrive.

Forever to Thee,

Harris Pastides