Salem College Lacks Community, Diversity, and Inclusivity:
The Time For Inclusivity at PWIs Is Now!
by Alexx Andersen
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
For four years, I went to a place that I wanted to see change. I went because I wanted to be an agent of change. I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into, but I was so wrong. Salem College tricked me by pushing that they were a progressive institution, yet they continue to show that they do not value diversity and inclusion. Salem College is a predominantly white institution, or a PWI, and they continue to let down students of color, queer students, and trans students, including me. They gave us a Director of Diversity and Inclusiveness after years of fighting done by students.
Yet, it is clear that Salem College administration does not care about the student body. They refuse to allow transgender education trainings, and there is no communication between students and the Board of Trustees, the group of people who claim to be working on a gender inclusive policy. After 13 years of devoted service to the institution, Salem College had decided to turn its back on Dr. Hines-Gaither, too. Dr. Hines-Gaither, a black woman, in her office of one, has worked tirelessly for the entire student body and the Salem community to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion on Salem College’s campus, but they have decided to fire her from this position without reason.
Many students have learned and gained so much from Dr. Hines-Gaither and her office, even though the office has only existed for a year. Shalondra Brown, from the Class of 2019, explains: “Dr. HG has filled me with so much inspiration and comfort. Just looking at her and her interactions with others, I aspire to be like her one day. She’s incredibly kind, loving, understanding, and successful. She actually gives a damn about us and won’t allow others to disrespect us. Through her office, she gave us a voice. And she helped expose me to new cultures and ideas. I feel like at any moment I could go to her and talk to her about anything. I’ve only had one class with her and she greets me with such a warm smile every time I see her and asks how I’m doing. She truly cares. And I’m damn pissed that they’re taking such a unique and amazing office and woman away from us.” For her, Dr. Hines-Gaither has been a source of community and she has supported her. That is more than what can be said for other members of the administration. When students are clearly hurting, many of them have been known to turn a blind eye. This is extremely hard on the students, and it leads them to wonder who they can turn to. That’s Dr. Hines-Gaither. Students can turn to her. She is their support. She is their community.
Dr. Hines-Gaither was a listening ear to people from various races, but also to all facets of diversity and inclusion. She wanted each and every student to feel as if they mattered. That’s what made her one of the most precious members of the Salem College community, and the institution was blessed to have her as the Director of Diversity and Inclusiveness. In fact, a differently-abled student from the Class of 2020 expresses that “as a first year student, Dr. Hines-Gaither immediately put me at ease when I walked into diversity training during orientation. As someone who identifies as being differently-abled I was absolutely blown away to see that Dr. Hines-Gaither had neuro- and ability diversity posters mixed in with others in the Office for Diversity and Inclusiveness.” Dr. Hines-Gaither shows the community, especially the students, what it means to truly love and care for someone, yet she was told that she could no longer fulfill the duties of her position. Dr. Hines-Gaither shows that she has a heart for the community, and it would do Salem College to realize the good that she has brought to the school, as well as what she could continue to bring to the school.
In addition to the support that she has provided for racially diverse and differently-abled people, she has also been a source of support that the queer and transgender community as well. Dr. Hines-Gaither has provided a place on the campus and in the community where many students can find a sense of belonging. Especially since college can be a very vulnerable time, this is such an important thing for so many of these students. One of her students, Nicole Heckemeyer, a member of the class of 2019, explains that “Dr. Hines-Gaither’s role as the Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusiveness has been greatly beneficial for students from all walks of life. The programming she created has given me and many others a place of comfort, a place we can share our concerns without fear, a place to belong. In a time with so much turmoil and chaos on campus and in our society at large, we need her in that role to give voice to the voiceless and support to the weak.” Dr. Hines-Gaither is clearly needed in the Salem College community, and her role as the Director of Diversity and Inclusiveness is needed so much. She is a woman of purpose and faith and she has given so much hope and faith to so many of the students on this campus.
There is currently a petition circling to bring Dr. Hines-Gaither’s position as the Director of Diversity and Inclusiveness at Salem College back, and you can find that petition here. If you would like to voice your opinions, and stand for values of diversity, inclusion, and community at Salem College, please call Dean Susan Calovini, the Dean of the College at 336.721.2617 and/or President D.E. Lorraine Sterritt, the President of Salem College at 336.721.2603. Dr. Hines-Gaither is a wonderful person that has contributed so much to this campus, and Salem College cannot afford to lose her. There is no room for hurt feelings, white fragility, or microaggressions in the 21st Century. There is a huge need for this position, for Dr. Hines-Gaither, and for change, especially at Salem College.