College of Charleston renames scholar awards citing efforts to address diversity, inclusion

College of Charleston renames scholar awards citing efforts to address diversity, inclusion
The College of Charleston is renaming its top scholar awards citing an effort to address diversity, equity and inclusion in the downtown campus. (Source: Live 5/File)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The College of Charleston is renaming its top scholar awards citing an effort to address diversity, equity and inclusion in the downtown campus.

President Andrew T. Hsu announced on Wednesday that he had authorized the removal of William Aiken from use in the Honors College and as the designation for the college’s top scholars. Those awards will now be referred to as the Charleston Fellows.

Hsu said the change was due to Aiken’s past.

“Aiken was a prominent planter of the white elite and a former S.C. governor who enslaved human beings for his own financial benefit,” Hsu said in a letter to the campus community.

According to Hsu, the name change request came from the Honors College and included the support of the school’s dean, faculty and staff, as well as former and current students.

In addition, Hsu said he has given the go ahead for the college to no longer use the name of Bishop Robert Smith, the college’s first president, for the highest graduating student award or as the namesake of the top donor society.

Hsu cited college records which indicated that Smith directed the use of enslaved people to perform labor on the campus.

“At the time of his death, Smith enslaved more than 200 human beings of African descent,” Hsu said.

Hsu said he became aware of the information through research done by the Center for the Study of Slavery and a forthcoming documentary based on research done by faculty and staff at the college.

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