The Carolinian Creed

Remembering The Days Podcast – Bonus Episode

Written 30 years ago by students, professors and staff members, the Carolinian Creed embodies the University of South Carolina's core values of respect, integrity and kindness. The creed became a model for scores of other colleges and universities around the country.



The Carolinian Creed

(female voice begins reciting the Carolinian Creed)

I will practice personal and academic integrity;
I will respect the dignity of all persons;

Thirty years ago, a group of students, faculty and staff at the University of South Carolina crafted a document that, frankly, became a pretty big deal — and not just here on campus.

I will respect the rights and property of others;
I will discourage bigotry, while striving to learn from differences in people, ideas and opinions; 

It’s called the Carolinian Creed, and it’s a brief but powerful set of statements that the Carolina community aspires to uphold.

I will demonstrate concern for others, their feelings, and their need for the conditions which support their work and development. 

I’m Chris Horn, your host for Remembering the Days, and today we’ve got a bonus episode about the history of the Carolinian Creed — why it was created and what happened after it was introduced.

The creed was written and adopted in 1990 at a time when the university was rapidly changing. Minority and international students were enrolling in much greater numbers, more out of state students were coming here for their college education, more students were transferring here from other colleges around South Carolina. And everyone was bringing different ideas, different viewpoints, and different religious beliefs to the campus conversation.

So, the university was fast becoming a melting pot of different cultures, and — surprise! — students didn’t always agree with one another. Shocking, I know. There were a few incidents around that time involving racism, free speech and religion, and that prompted university administrators to look for solutions.

Pruitt: We couldn’t figure out how are we going to bring all these students together. How are we going help them understand each other? The central question was how are we going to teach them how to treat each other? Not just how to treat others like them with kindness and dignity and respect but how were they going to learn to treat others that are different than them, and there were starting to be as many differences in our population as there were similarities.

That’s Dennis Pruitt, the university’s vice president for student affairs. He says the creed was intended to give students something to aspire to, something noble to uphold rather than just another set of rules. There were already plenty of rules to follow.

Pruitt: It was never intended to be a code. That’s why we call it a creed. … It became apparent that we could have a code and that requires people to comply, with sanctions, but if you have a creed — people do it voluntarily because it’s the right thing to do. It was always meant to be a teaching tool, an informative tool  and not a code of conduct.  

At the time the creed was adopted, a man named Ernest Boyer — the president of the Carnegie Foundation — came to visit the South Carolina campus. Dennis says Boyer was impressed with the Carolinian Creed and became a virtual ambassador for it, sharing it with universities across the country. Boyer called the creed the Garnet Gospel and said it was the embodiment of what universities should promote.

Pruitt: Rather than treating everything as a misbehavior, you try to create good behaviors. And you try to ascend to the highest level. 

Universities and colleges started calling the University of South Carolina in the 1990s to get more information about the Carolinian Creed so that they could write their own creed statements.

Pruitt: Finally, I think it was about the 180th request, we just put it in the public domain and said, ‘Look, anybody that wants to use the creed can use it and you can use it verbatim, you can adjust it, modify it, whatever and if you look around the country now, virtually every institution in the country has a document like the Carolinian Creed.

Dennis says the Creed remains relevant today because it appeals to our better nature, even in this era of political polarization.

Pruitt: So you have conservatives who think liberals don’t tolerate their viewpoints and liberals who don’t think conservatives tolerate their viewpoint, and the creed is a document that says, ‘we have to learn to live with people who are different than ourselves and we have to understand them and we have to respect them.’ 

In 2020, we could probably all benefit from a little more Carolinian Creed in our lives. Integrity, respect, concern for others? Now more than ever.

That’s all for this bonus episode of Remembering the Days. We’ll be back next week with another story from the university’s past. Thanks for listening.

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