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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

President Samhat remarks on “Breaking Down Barriers” and racial tensions on campus

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By: Omar K. Elmore, staff writer

President Samhat praises Drew Copeland ’19 for his “Breaking Down Barriers” series in which Copeland discussed his battle with racism on campus. “Drew demonstrated great leadership in a difficult circumstance,” says Samhat. “It is not easy for anyone, particularly students, to stand out and take leadership on these issues because it is challenging.”

In his series, Copeland talked about an incident with another student who called him a racial slur. Copeland filed an incident report and the college sanctioned the other student involved.

“The incident, and any incident like it, is unacceptable,” Samhat says, noting that Wofford has often led the charge for inclusivity, including the integration of blacks and whites and the opening of campus to female students. “We do not tolerate intolerance, whether it is because of [race], faith, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin.”

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Copeland used his series to critique the way Wofford handles cases involving discrimination. He argued that he felt ignored by administration during the process.

“The Bias Incident Report process is a good process and it has worked,” Samhat said, responding to the critique. “I also believe that we are never satisfied and should never be satisfied. We should always be assessing everything on this campus.”

Copeland, who is a Bonner Scholar, also critiqued the sanctions imposed on the student. He argued that the student should have been required to complete more community hours, on par with Bonner requirements, and that the fine that was imposed should have been donated to a relevant cause.

“We use sanctions to help encourage folks to learn,” says Samhat. “Our learning from this incident is in multiple ways. Hopefully our community learns through the work of Drew, the individual learns through the sanctions and we all become better off for it.”

During a panel that Copeland led on campus, other students and alumni described their experiences with similar incidents on campus and the way the school handled those acts of discrimination. Samhat was asked if he believes that there is a race problem at Wofford.

“I think there is a race problem in America,” Samhat replied. “College campuses across the country mirrors society. We are becoming a more diverse nation in every way imaginable. When different kinds of identities become normalized, as is happening in America and the world, that causes uncertainty and unease and challenges people’s sense of how they imagine society to be. So, do we have a problem? I wouldn’t say it’s a problem on-par with tensions we see in society.”

Samhat commended Copeland on his efforts and called on students to continue pursuing the campus culture they hope to see, noting that faculty, staff and administration are willing to assist in any organized events.

“Drew is an example of that leadership on our campus and in society,” says Samhat. “Students can shape the culture. I can say as many times as possible that we are a diverse and inclusive community… but it’s up to the people to nurture and take that and mobilize around it.

“Significant movements for change are, more often than not, driven by young people. That’s the way it should be because the future is your future. I might do my best to shape the world but it is your world–the young people.”

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