Diversity needs to be a priority at Piedmont


Staff Editorial

Piedmont is known for its kind nature and welcoming community. When prospective students first step foot on a college or university campus, they are greeted by faculty, staff and the administration. They are shown around campus and made to feel at home. The students are not shown, though, the lack of diversity that is prevalent around campus. 


Prospective students are made to believe that Piedmont has a diverse campus, and while the student body shows some diversity, the faculty, staff and administration is predominantly white. This makes the college feel less like home to prospective minority students who are interested in joining the college. Minority students will not know if they will feel welcome. According to US News, whose rankings Piedmont proudly touts every year, “students should look to the faculty and staff ranks to gauge a college’s diversity. Is diversity reflected in these positions? The answer could signal a college’s level of commitment to diversity and inclusion.” By this metric, a simple glance at Piedmont’s faculty and staff page demonstrates a lack of commitment to diversity.


We understand that the makeup of staff cannot change overnight. The right people just might not be looking for the job at the right time; it will be a gradual transition. Until then, what will Piedmont College do to ensure the safety and comfort for people of color? 


One place to start is with programming. US News notes thatstudents should look beyond the lip service to determine what a college’s commitment to diversity and inclusion truly is.” If Piedmont prides itself in being a diverse community, consideration of African American students must be made in the planning of campus events, for example intentionally incorporating black artists and minority speakers in planned events. 


The Piedmont app exploded with an unguided and misdirected conversation of race after a Piedmont student noted that the “Black Lives Matter” sticker on their car was vandalized. Incidents like this need to be followed up with a campus conversation on race, rather than be ignored. The college’s acknowledgment of racial awareness should not be a once-a-month occurrence during Black History Month. Issues of race and culture should not only be brought up when it is comfortable or convenient. 


Piedmont strives to have a strong retention rate among students. Because of the preexisting lack of a black community at Piedmont, whether that be in the student body or faculty and staff, black students do not always want to remain on campus. An intentional support system on campus — like an African American Student Union, a true diversity office or a student organization that focuses on establishing community among minority students — could help those minority groups feel more welcome on campus and help retain black students. A place that is already not home for many people feels a lot less familiar when you feel like you are not wanted by the people who are supposed to take care of you. 

Because of the lack of representation in predominantly white colleges, many students of color seek out Historically black colleges and universities. At these HBCUs, like Spelman College and Howard University, students know they will be represented and their culture celebrated. When racial problems arise, the school administration is well-equipped to handle these situations. With such a diverse group of people at the head, these schools are knowledgeable of the right actions to ensure the safety and well-being of their students. When problems relating to race arise, students do not want the basic statement they have been offered in the past. Instead of solely receiving a statement, students want to see the proof of change. If Piedmont says actions will be taken to take care of their students of color, students want to see the receipts. 

Other USA South Conference schools have high-ranking college officials focused on diversity. Berea College has a vice president for diversity and inclusion. Wesleyan College has an assistant dean for equity and inclusion. Mary Baldwin University has an associate provost for inclusive excellence. Additionally, all these schools make bold statements about how it values diversity on their websites. Meanwhile, Piedmont announced last fall that it had added “diversity coordinator” to the role of financial aid advisor Ty Thomaswick. But as of this writing, her diversity title is not even listed on the college’s website. Although we appreciate the efforts of Thomaswick and don’t doubt her qualifications, the fact that Piedmont relegated the college’s main diversity position as an “add-on” to someone’s already full-time job demonstrates a lack of commitment to diversity. The position is so important to students that it should not be combined with other unrelated job responsibilities, and should not be given to someone with no voice on the President’s cabinet.

We need action. As Piedmont College transforms into Piedmont University this spring, the administration should proudly and publicly proclaim their commitment to diversity. Piedmont’s chief diversity official should be elevated to a full-time position and have a daily voice in all administration discussions. The college needs to make known how it plans to make more concerted efforts at recruiting a diverse faculty and staff. 

Only then Piedmont will truly become a welcoming community, for ALL students.


Unanimously supported by the Editorial Board.