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President of the Yr: Roslyn Clark Artis, Benedict School



Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Benedict School, is aware of her college students nicely. 

Whereas sitting in her workplace on the traditionally Black college in South Carolina, she rattled off just a few details: Fewer than one-quarter of Benedict college students have their very own laptop computer or laptop. Twelve % do not dwell in an space with broadband entry. And 31% expertise housing insecurity. 

For these teams of scholars, taking on-line courses at dwelling hasn’t been an possibility, so Benedict officers reopened the campus for them this fall whereas encouraging the remainder to remain dwelling. 

“We’re open as a result of we now have to be for a bunch of scholars who want us desperately, however the objective is to not overpopulate the campus in the midst of a pandemic,” she mentioned. 

A mannequin for faculty leaders

Artis has deftly steered Benedict by the pandemic’s billows, balancing instructional fairness with the well being and security of its roughly 1,700 college students, a overwhelming majority of whom are Black, in accordance with federal information. 

The pandemic is disproportionately killing Black folks. In South Carolina, Black residents account for 39% of coronavirus-related deaths although they make up solely 27% of the inhabitants, according to data from The COVID Monitoring Venture as of Nov. 13.

Benedict officers have fastidiously applied security measures and offered totally different tutorial modalities for college kids, Brian Bridges, former vice chairman of analysis and member engagement at UNCF, which lobbies on behalf of personal HBCUs, mentioned in October. Bridges, now the performing secretary of upper schooling for New Jersey, mentioned Artis is a mannequin not only for different HBCU leaders, however “for faculty management throughout the nation.” 

Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Bendict College

Roslyn Clark Artis is the president of Benedict School.

Permission granted by Benedict School


The challenges began in March, when faculty college students nationwide have been despatched dwelling en masse. “The one distinction at Benedict is our college students are low-wealth, first-generation, youngsters of shade,” Artis mentioned. “We couldn’t merely say you may have 24 hours to get out.”

As an alternative, Benedict shortly raised $50,000, primarily from the school’s trustees, to pay for some college students’ journey bills. Officers booked airplane tickets and ran all-day shuttles to close by cities inside and out of doors the state. In addition they gave some college students money for airport snacks and checked baggage. 

“We declared the evacuation on Sunday,” she mentioned. “The final child left Wednesday at 6:40 p.m.”

Extra hurdles got here in the summertime. Protests flared up throughout the nation over police brutality and systemic racism when George Floyd, a Black man, died after a White police officer knelt on his neck for greater than eight minutes. Although the campus was reeling, Artis mentioned, college students could not collect to unpack their feelings. 

That would not be the final blow. Benedict officers have been nonetheless hammering out their fall plans in late July after they realized one of many college’s soccer gamers was shot and killed whereas away from campus. In a standard 12 months, Artis mentioned, he would have been at Benedict’s coaching camp as an alternative. 

“For me, that crystallized it,” she mentioned. “Arms down, no selection — we’re opening.” The college was clear, nonetheless, that the invitation solely prolonged to college students who did not have the area, instruments or capability to be taught nearly at dwelling. 

Marybeth Gasman, government director of Rutgers College’s Heart for Minority Serving Establishments, lauded Artis’ messaging to households. “I not solely recognize that as a scholar,” Gasman mentioned, “I recognize that as a mum or dad who desires to see presidents being clear about what is going on on at their establishments.” 

‘We’re not kidding about this’

In all, 671 college students have been dwelling on campus this fall. The faculty spent $2.5 million, most of which got here from federal aid funding, on security measures, together with virus testing, cleansing and private protecting tools.   

Exhausting-and-fast guidelines guided their each day lives. They needed to put on masks throughout class. They needed to be of their dorms by midnight. And in the event that they needed to depart campus to go dwelling, they have been examined for the coronavirus on their return. 

The results for breaking the foundations might be dire. “We suspended a few youngsters early on to set the tone that we’re not kidding about this,” Artis mentioned. 

“We couldn’t merely say you may have 24 hours to get out.”

Roslyn Clark Artis

President, Benedict School

Benedict examined all on-campus college students for the virus upon their arrival and randomly all through the time period. The transfer was prescient. Just a few weeks after the semester began, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention recommended colleges perform that sort of testing. At least one study additionally recommended frequent testing can be essential to manage outbreaks. 

The faculty’s testing turned up 17 constructive instances from Aug. 3 to Oct. 30, which is the period of the on-campus time period, representing a 1.4% positivity fee, Artis mentioned.

“We care about these youngsters on a a lot deeper stage than maybe some establishments have the time or inclination to,” she mentioned. “That is not a criticism of some other establishment; it’s an amplifying of how particular I believe this college is.”

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