By Arlena Joyner, Campus Carrier Staff Writer
According to faculty, staff and administration, efforts have been made over the course of Berry’s history to increase diversity at the institution. Based on demographics presented by College Factual, a website compiling the level of ethnic diversity among U.S. colleges, Berry has approximately a 17% minority population and an 83% non-minority population. Resolutions have been designed to greater balance these figures. Faculty, staff and administration have presented their strategic planning document, which serves as a platform for the goals and objectives of Berry College over a number of years.
In Section II of Berry College’s Strategic Plan, it says that Berry strives to provide a high-caliber and affordable education for students from diverse environments.
Part Two of Section II then further elaborates a specific objective of Berry College, which says, “Increase number of students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds to enhance the campus culture and curriculum.”
Dean of Students Debbie Heida said Berry has not set any numeric percentage goals for increasing ethnic and racial diversity, but keep a mindset that is cognizant of the need for improvement and strives toward balancing these numbers. She said the main goal is improving from year to year, as stated in the strategic plan.
Interim Provost Andrew Bressette also said that Berry College has room for improvement in the area of racial and ethnic diversity.
“We need to do more to increase racial and ethnic diversity on campus,” Bressette said. “If we all look the same even if we are different inside, there is this perception that we are not diverse.”
Bressette, Heida and Tasha Toy, director of multicultural and international student programs, say that the number of minority students has increased over the many years they have been employed at Berry.
However, all are in accord that there is greater room for improvement. According to Heida, means of this progress include creating possible admission opportunities across the diverse socioeconomic spectrum in the Berry community as well as the provision of programs to minority students on campus to ensure comfort and success at the institution.
Toy directs the Multicultural and International Student Programs, which serve as a resource for students of diverse backgrounds.
According to Toy, the purpose of her office and the programs she oversees is to assist students of diverse backgrounds, particularly those in minority groups, with support services, career advisement, financial aid assistance and access to all other resources on campus.
Additionally, Heida shared information on a 2015 mentoring program that will continue again in the 2016-17 term through which minority Berry alumni mentor current minority students in navigating through their college experience as well as searching for future job opportunities. She said that the program was successful and therefore will continue once again for the said term.
Berry administration and leadership also offered more information on the recent chalking incident on campus, saying that it challenged some of the ideals of acceptance of students from different backgrounds.
The main point collectively shared in reference to diversity and relations between diverse students is that the chalking issue started a conversation that administrators claim is difficult and uncomfortable yet has potential for growth on the topic of diversity across campus.
“The words in the chalking incident have been very hurtful,” Toy said. “In those uncomfortable times we have started having conversations surrounding tolerance, civility, and respect.”
Berry College faculty, staff and administration say they wish for further progress with this continuing conversation sparked by issues such as the chalking incident and recent election results.
Regardless, based on information given from faculty, staff and administration, these leaders are confident of the Berry College community’s capability to handle the possibility of change in perspective and understanding across multiple levels of diversity.
“I know that faculty members really treasure diversity, and they do so by infusing it in how they teach and what they teach,” Toy said. “Those small strides of teaching and trying to include a world perspective show that the faculty really do champion that cause.”