Podcast with the Provost: Diversity and inclusiveness on Appalachian's campus

Appalachian State University Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, Darrell Kruger and his guest, Associate Professor of History, Karl Campbell discuss growing diversity and inclusiveness on Appalachian's campus.


  • Darrell: Hello, welcome to another Podcast with the Provost. I'm Darrell Kruger, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor. And I'm glad to be joined by Karl Campbell today.

    Karl: Hey, I'm Karl Campbell, Associate Professor of History. I mostly do North Carolina and recent American Political History.

    Darrell: Very good. Thanks for joining us. I think the intent is to look at Appalachian's campus and to try and grow the diversity and inclusiveness of the campus. We're doing it with students. We're doing it with faculty and staff. But the campus landscape needs to reflect that as well. The intent is basically to work with faculty, staff and students to do that.

    Last September, Rob Haswell was on campus, and I did a podcast with him. We were speaking about diversity and inclusiveness in the South African context and trying to look at how South Africa went about that. After Rob was here with all the discussion that was going around about Charlottesville and then later on of course with Silent Sam, what we've done at Appalachian is we've created these working groups to bring faculty staff and students together. I chair a working group called the Campus Inclusive Climate Stories Group, and Karl is on that group as are probably about a dozen other faculty and staff. We meet from time to time to look at the campus environment and look at how we can add to the diversity of the existing landscape so it truly reflects Appalachian as an institution at this particular point in time.

    Karl: I've been really lucky to work on this new committee, Appalachian State University History Committee, which the Chancellor just formed a year or so ago. We started small. I guess we've got five faculty members, but we've expanded that to about 10 or 11. We're about to add students. Our job has been trying to figure out how do we gather relevant, important historical materials, and then how can we go about analyzing them, using students, faculty, research and then disseminating our story. There's a lot going on, on the campus. We’ve discovered, just in the last year or two, there's lots of faculty and students doing work, but what we're just starting to do now is pull this together so that we can coordinate it. Our work is going along with the inclusivity work, and it's kind of exciting that finally on the campus we're getting this motion to seriously look at how we can make people comfortable on campus and how we can gather our history and tell our stories.

    Darrell: That's exactly correct. I'm not implying that as an institution we're not inclusive. We're just trying to add the other voices to the ongoing narrative of Appalachian. As a case in point, it was probably more than a year ago that we added the Eastern Band of the Cherokee flag to the student union, to the Plemmons Student Union.

    There are four permanent flags in the student union, and the fourth one is the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. You may wonder well, why the Eastern Band of the Cherokee? Well, it's because of the historical connections with the Cherokee to western North Carolina and this part of the state in particular. Within the college of education, we've got the Gadugi Project, which has existed for about 10 years now. Allen Bryant, a faculty member in the college, teaches two courses at the Cherokee High School on the boundary. Recognizing the historical connections of the Cherokee with this place as well as this Gadugi Project, it's fitting to have the Eastern Band of the Cherokee flag as part of the permanent exhibit, and we extend certainly our gratitude and thanks to the Chancellor who continues from the time she's got here to support diversity and inclusiveness and growing our student body and making all voices heard. That's just one example of, a recent example of how we've added to the current iconographic landscape of the campus.

    Karl, do you wanna talk a little bit about ...  As we look at campus inclusivity, one of the pieces that has come up, one of the issues that has come up is the SGA last April, last spring I believe, came up with a resolution around two residents hall names, Hoey and Lovill, and passed a resolution to have those residents halls names changed given the research that they had done on Hoey and Lovill. The Campus Climate Stories Group met, actually met with two of the four authors of the resolution and had some conversations around that whole process. So Karl, as a historian, do you wanna speak to some of the work we were doing with students to try and develop a process for doing this in a systematic way.

    Karl: Of course, it's happening nationally and it's happened across our state that what at one time was an appropriate name or an appropriate symbol, an expression of who we valued and how we saw ourselves in history, at a later time is no longer appropriate. The students found two names. Lovill did many wonderful things for the University and his family did. He was a member of the Confederacy. They raised questions as to whether that name should remain.

    Hoey, who is a Governor and a Senator of the state, like many other people during that time was a segregationist and supported racial segregation. How do we as a community, how do we as historians, go about this? If someone brings a complaint or raises a question, we as a university should take it really seriously. And as historians, we have a term called 'presentism' and it's when you ... it's kind of a historical sin or a fallacy. It's not judging the past with our contemporary criteria, or maybe I should say that better. It's not understanding the past with our contemporary criteria. We may wanna look back at a time like when Governor and Senator Hoey was active in supporting segregation, but we need to try to understand it at that time how was he in compared to what others were doing in the historical context. And once we can do that kind of research and be really thorough, then we have to think about who should be at the table discussing this. Faculty, students, but who is our University? The administrators, alumni?

    I think we've begun a pretty neat and interesting process, but how do we go about this? How do we have a discussion that brings a historical dilemma, a question, discusses it, analyzes it, and then we can go forward and think, what should we do with this building and this plaque and this name? So even before we get to the decision, I'm kind of excited that we're talking about the process.

    Darrell: That's exactly correct. It's part of the transformational education experience at Appalachian where faculty and administrators wanna engage with students and staff to look at some of these thorny, complex issues. To the point that you made, Karl, I think what this enables us to do is to tip our hat and recognize students that they've raised these questions and then working collaboratively with them demonstrate how you can go about developing criteria so that we can look at the campus landscape through that lens and have those criteria or that process in place to do it in a systematic way.

    Karl: We were invited to go, you and I and some other members of the History Department, other faculty went to the student government meeting and had a really good discussion where we got to hear the concerns and the questions, and yet we were raising questions too. I think we were very supportive and saying, "Well, yeah this is great, but let's have a process of learning. Let's not just jump to a conclusion. Move a name or add to the name. How can we actually turn this into a process?" It's been very positive the way it's gone forward.

    I think the other thing that's really interesting is the options that we have. We can simply remove a name, we can rename, and who would we want ... There's also what we've discussed is an additive approach. Perhaps instead of removing a piece of history, we could add another piece of history so that the public space is enriched. We could also ... sometimes people use the word repurpose. We could take a plaque down and give different information around a person so that the questions or controversies are part of the experience of viewing this building or this public art or whatever else we're looking at. I really think we're just at the beginning of a really good process, and it was great that students brought this up because we were already beginning, but it's kind of given us specific examples and pushed us forward.

    Darrell: That's exactly correct. As we do our work over here of course, we're nested within a national and maybe an international context. I was reading something in The Guardian a couple of weeks back where it was referred to as the 'Monument Wars,' and it's this whole debate around representation and what monuments and memorials represent in the 21st century. As we look at what's happened across the U.S in particular, I'm not going to talk specifically about Silent Sam because we continue to read about that. I'm not trying to trivialize it or marginalize it. It's an important issue that has been currently grappled with.

    I think if you look at other institutions, in '10 and '11, I did a fellowship at Madison and still get their daily newsfeed from the Wisconsin system. With my interest in this, given what Karl and I are speaking about today, I'm particularly sensitive to things around representation, and symbols, and monuments, and memorials.

    On campuses like Madison -- and it's not only Madison, it's there's probably a half a dozen across the country that I've been reading a little bit about -- they too are developing these processes like we are speaking about: How to engage faculty, students and community members.

    One of the components of that process is to, when you get a resolution like the one we're speak in about with Hoey and Lovill is often times employ the expertise of a public historian. That individual, he or she, typically would look at the particular topic that's been raised and then analyze it, study it, and write an independent report; which members of the campus community can then read, speak about it. They can make recommendations at Appalachian to the naming committee, which is in the Vice Chancellor for Development's portfolio. Then that ultimately is decided upon by the chancellor because that recommendation ultimately goes to her.

    I think putting that process in place and solidifying it a bit more on our campus is consistent with what's happening across the country. I can't speak for the world, but I know it's been debated in South Africa and certainly in England, around the monument of Cecil John Rhodes.

    Karl: Of course, in the United States, we're very much thinking about the confederate monuments. The process we can have at a place like Appalachian, could really be a process of empowerment. I mean, so that people, even if they disagree a little bit with the analysis, we can teach this historical process. We do good research, we get the facts, then we share all this information and allow a lot of different people to comment, to learn together, to have a process so that people really feel empowered and their voices are heard. Then when we get to a decision, hopefully that'll be a consensus decision, but even if it isn't, that process has brought us somewhere that's really taught us a lot.

    We're pretty lucky on our campus. We don't have any really outstanding egregious examples that we have to deal with. These are two important ones. We may find some others. We also want to go forward so that our campus is inclusive. More inclusive than it is now. We want to avoid include voices and symbols of people that are not represented. It's not only a discussion of a correcting mistakes, but adding and creating this new environment.

    I know in South Africa you had quite a bit of experience you were telling me about the one road in which they had statues. I wonder if you wanted to comment.

    Darrell: Yeah. In fact, as you were speaking, Carl, I was tracking along the same lines. In Pietermaritzburg, which is the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, was established by the British. Of course it was inhabited before that by Zulu and, and non-Zulu indigenous societies. Then of course after the British colonization ended, it became part of the Union of South Africa.

    It's got a very, very rich history in terms of representing different racial slash ethnic groups. For example, along this pedestrian area that's being created in Pietermaritzburg, at the one end of the pedestrian area you've got a statue, a statue of Shepstone is the man's last name. He was a British colonial official. He's the person who is credited with creating the Native Reserves, which later became the homelands and  repartide in South Africa.

    Here you've got chips and basically up on a pedestal, looking down on pedestrians of all backgrounds who walk past. If you go just a little bit further down the street from the pedestrian area from way Shepstone is, is now a monument or memorial to Gandhi. Gandhi, of course, spent a significant amount of time in South Africa, fighting for the same rights for Indian and non-white South Africans.

    The statute of Gandhi commemorates where he was literally thrown off the train. The train station was just a little bit further down the road. Gandhi bought a first-class ticket, which as a barrister, he could afford. What happened is when the conductor came through there said, "You can't sit in this section." He refuse to move, and so they threw him off the train.

    Karl: I guess he was considered colored in the racial ...

    Darrell: Hierarchy.

    Karl:... standing? Yeah.

    Darrell: Yeah, he certainly was. Gandhi ... If you were Indian or Chinese, you consider to be black or non-white.

    Then if you go a little bit further down, a little bit further down, there's a monumental memorial to Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was arrested just outside of Pietermaritzburg, before he was imprisoned and then eventually tried and imprisoned for 27 years.

    That represents, to a point you made earlier, Carl, about this additive versus subtractive approach. In Pietermaritzburg, they've taken more of the additive approach where you literally, as a visitor, citizen, whoever you may be, you can literally walk down that pedestrian area, and literally be walking through different periods in history where different people are represented. Sometimes for laudatory things they've done in other times for things that are not laudatory. That's the approach that they've taken there rather than the subtractive approach or what I learned recently sometimes called the antagonistic approach, which is to remove things.

    I think if we circle that back to Appalachian, as you mentioned earlier, Cole, our intent is not really to be trying to stick it to someone or poke someone in the eye. It's really to honor our past as part of Upland South culture. To be adding to that narrative by and representing non-Upland South cultural symbols and iconography, so that it's truly representative of Appalachia and in an authentic way. Tokenism, of course, is not what we're trying to drive at at all.

    Karl: It reminds me of an experience I had taking students overseas a couple decades ago. We went to -- the Soviet Union had just become Russia -- Perestroika. Everywhere, Lennon was coming down. Everywhere, the hammer and sickle was coming down. In one office that the students and I went into, it was still all up .

    Through an interpreter, we asked the man in charge, "Why do you still have these, these up? Everyone's taking them down."

    I remember he, he smiled and he said, through the interpreter, "Well first we knocked all the czar's. You couldn't see a czar anywhere. Then Stalin went down. Now Lenin's going down." He said, "I think people should stop coming down. We need to remember our history."

    I think that's really what we're trying to do at App. I mean, we don't want to be tokenistic, and we don't want to be politically correct, whatever that means. I do think we want for anyone who walks across our campus to feel comfortable, and to be able to see images in public space, and in our, in our built human environment, examples of who they are and how they're part of our story.

    I think both in my committee, which is doing the historical research and trying to ... We're talking about a project that maybe soon in the future, we'll be able to not only name every building but halve plaques up, and maybe pictures of what it looked like years ago, which is always fun. Then maybe also have a digital component, so that you can go on your phone and read the history, and maybe even some of the debates so that our public space becomes part of the educational experience. When you visit the campus, you're brought into these debates, which would be great.

    Darrell: Yeah, I think it's one point that'd risen with your comments just a short while ago is the recent dedication of the what is sometimes referred to as the Divine Nine Plots & Gardens, which represent the divine nine African-American Greek life organizations. We have seven of those nine that are active on our campus. That space now between the administration building and Roess Dining Hall, literally is a place where anyone can visit. It's a place that resonates in particular with members of the African-American community who are affiliated with the Divine Nine organizations.

    You can imagine when we did the unveiling just a couple of weeks ago, the attraction that, that had to bring alumni and current students, but particularly alumni and friends, back to campus. Those spaces for human beings are important. Just like Founder's Plaza, which we dedicated. Karl, you were one of the speakers and have been instrumental with that work. Thank you for that. Those sorts of spaces are spaces where people can come back and celebrate. At commencement, it's where people can take pictures. When people are looking at college visits, you know, in addition to doing what we do on college visits, the divine 9 Gods and Plots,  there's a particular place that African American students, in this place in particular, can connect with. That's the goal of this.

    If we want to diversify and be more inclusive, we're doing very, very good work on the recruitment end. Where we're doing well, but we can certainly improve is in the retention side of the equation.

    Karl: A big goal for our university, I believe, is finding our heritage and our tradition. I think all institutions sometimes forget their history. We become a bit lazy and just accept the general myths. There's so many voices and so many stories that are part of that tradition, so Founder's Plaza is wonderful. It brings us back to the Dougherty family, and it brings us back to the founding.

    The founding isn't just with, and excuse here, provosts and chancellors and buildings. It's also the story of the people who worked here, the people that built the buildings. The people that cleaned the buildings. The student's who came and left, and the faculty. There's so many stories that we can include.

    As we go back and find that, we can also recover things. You probably know a bit more than I do about the cemetery. We found an area of a cemetery where African-American remains were. It's wonderful when you can find, and rediscover, and bring back to prominence. Could you talk a little about the cemetery?

    Darrell: Yeah. That's another example where the town cemetery was segregated. In fact, as I understand it, parts of the cemetery where African-Americans were buried, there weren't even gravestones. I think, through research and through an initiative that included stakeholders both on campus and off campus, a memorial was opened, was recognized about a year ago, now.

    That not only pays tribute to the African-American community in the cemetery, but to the African-American community in Boone. They were part of history here in Boone. That's an example of an additive approach, where we are recognizing the African-American community, in that context.

    Karl: The way that we can go about this can do a lot for our education purpose. There are times, especially with the two buildings that the SGA has brought up, it's really important to get that beyond us, to bring in outside experts. We can involve our students in this research.

    We can work this into our public history programs, into our first year seminars, so that students themselves can be learning the historical process, doing the research. Faculty can be doing and working with students to publish and give papers and scholarship. Then we can come together as a community through administrative efforts and do the products, put up the statues.

    The more we can involve this in our actual curriculum, the better. We had a great example of that with the Dougherty family. We got a small grant and were able to work with the Dougherty family, to put up in the DD Dougherty building. Soon there'll be new plaques and new information. It'll be very beautiful, and it was all graduate student work that led to that.

    Darrell: Yeah. That's wonderful. It goes back to the transformational education experience, and faculty and student's working together, which is a nice bridge. If you look at this initiative to have a more inclusive campus landscape through the built environment, the one need that we do have is for the development of an inventory. We need to, for example, inventory the names of all buildings on campus.

    This is not exhaustive, but it would include, of course, the name of the building, the year it was built or the year it was opened, as well as some information about the building and why the building was called or named what it was named. It could also include, of course, street names. As you mentioned earlier, in the context of Founder's Plaza, it could include statues.

    I share that piece because I was recently having a conversation with Trent Margrif, who's a faculty member on the work group that I mentioned at the outset. Trent will be working with a few of his classes in the spring semester to work on that inventory. We'll probably do it in two phases, as we're thinking about it right now.

    Once that's complete, which we hope to have it complete by probably the start of the fall semester next year, then we can use that inventory as a framework, if you wish, or a puzzle framework, so that as we look at adding to the diversity and inclusiveness of the campus, we can have that map, so to speak, of what it currently looks like. During the course of looking at developing that inventory, we will probably, I suspect, uncover some things that we did not know, which we can then, of course, include those stories.

    The inventory is a wonderful way of marrying, as you indicated, the student and faculty collaboration as part of the educational experience here at Appalachian.

    Karl: Another idea that we're talking about in the ASU History Committee, it's down the road, but we do a lot of videos and documentaries. Sometimes for Freshman Orientation, sometimes to advertise for Admissions. Would it be possible, we're asking, to add more of a historical sense? To add these voices? If we do that, then that leads to the research, it leads to the student involvement.

    Eventually these kind of both digital, film, art, all of these kind of projects can represent both in the process and in the actually creation and in their physical representation, multiple voices, multiple cultures. That's really kind of fun to work with, and it fits right into our teaching.

    Darrell: Yeah, it's wonderful. It's exciting. I certainly continue to enjoy my interaction with you and with to committee. Even though I'm Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, I'm a geographer and anthropologist by formal education. My passion for these topics is hopefully evident. What I think of this work and being able to work in a collaborative sense with Karl and others, I think of this as a sort of applied historical and cultural geography. It's been very rewarding.

    Karl: Our Chancellor has really brought some energy to this, too. It was really her initiative that brought us Founder's Plaza and brought us back to our connections with that past. Right now, we're in a good place moving forward. Again, for the students independently to come up with these issues and raise these questions about these buildings just adds to the initiative we're moving forward on.

    Darrell: Yeah, I agree. It's an exciting time to be at Appalachian, as we grow student diversity and faculty diversity, and hopefully the landscape can reflect those efforts. You're exactly correct, the Chancellor, this is front-of-mind for her and a high priority. That's one of the reasons why I came to Appalachian, and so enjoy being part of the larger leadership team and this work in particular. Look forward to more to come.

    Karl: Very good.

    Darrell: Thanks, Karl.

    Karl: Thank you.

    Darrell: Certainly.