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Convocation Essays

Convocation and The College Reads! are important focal points for each year’s incoming class.

The College’s convocation welcomes new students to the liberal arts and sciences community and encourages them to consider their own intellectual journey. This occasion also serves to familiarize incoming students with the College’s academic traditions as well as the institution’s history, symbols and mottos.

Convocation Essay Information

All students will receive a copy of Rising Out of Hatred and the convocation essay prompts at New Student Orientation if you are attending in June or July. The students attending in August will receive a copy in the mail in July. 

Students are expected to complete a convocation essay for new student convocation on August 19, 2019. 


Faculty Letter to #CofC2022

December 4, 2018

Dear Class of 2022

Your responses to The Hate U Give were impressive and brave, both in your engagement with the world Angie Thomas reflects in her novel and in your willingness to relate the book’s resonant characters, places, themes, and events to your own lives. Some of your most ambitious responses arrived in your dynamic multimedia and visual projects, each inspired by Starr’s thoughts and feelings as she navigates between her two communities and tries to grieve and find justice for Khalil.

These projects included original photography, poetry, illustrations, word-art projects, collages, videos, and graphic designs--even an emblazoned jean jacket and a body-composition.

Many of you also chose to respond thoughtfully in the form of essays that interrogate stereotypes of place and seek out pathways to a just world. We gathered some crucial insights from your reflections.

Some of you discussed the ways in which Thomas’s novel forced you to think more deeply about where you came from. For those who grew up in towns that lack cultural and ideological diversity, the novel prompted an honest reflection on your own prejudices. “In my life,” one of you writes, “I have made my fair share of bad assumptions on topics and places that I honestly do not know enough about to judge.” Another, admitting the real harm these assumptions can cause, writes picture of Starr yelling nothat “while reading The Hate U Give, I couldn’t help but think about the hate I give.”

And many of you have been on the receiving end of such hate--hate driven by what one of you aptly terms “toxic stereotypes” that so often inform our daily interactions. One student, writing more specifically of growing up black in America, reasons that “although I am black in America, that doesn’t mean other races should be afraid of me, my community or belittle my education. Everyone here is important. We just wish other races would understand that too.”  Another student focuses more specifically on stereotypes of place: “Throughout my whole life,” the student confides, “I have had a label put on me because of where I grew up.” This was a common refrain for so many of you, whether you grew up in upstate South Carolina or South Africa, in Rochester, NY or Romania. 

Such stereotypes so often reflect the stale and unreflective stories that we tell about certain people or places. “Even though people love to talk about change,” one of you writes, “they don’t like to give credibility to the newer stories.” Many of you spoke to this need to empower others to tell these new stories, and to start these new conversations.

Some of these new conversations and emerging voices, as many of you noted, are thriving in online spaces--particularly in social networks where there is as much potential for advocacy and change. Many of you noted how your interest in key social issues has been sparked by important movements--#MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter--that were propelled by social media. And even as you recognize the pitfalls of misinformation that can spread online, you also describe how social media functions as a crucial venue for these conversations:  “I try to have lots of conversations with people about our differing views in an attempt to open their eyes,” one student writes. “My posts on social media incite conversations, and I respond to those who post their views as well. Whether one is part of the ‘right’ or the ‘left,’ a polite discussion needs to take place.” 

So many of your stories you shared with us resonated with Starr’s narrative even as they moved beyond the categories of race and class. One of you, who grew up in the Philippines, described related areas of discrimination: “In my country, we don’t face the same alarming rate of racially charged acts of violence such as police brutality, mass shootings,” she writes. “However, women and<the LGBTQ+ community, the poor, indigenous people or natives, and religious minorities remain inferior.” Whether you were describing body-shaming and sexist school dress codes, or the weight of judgment you felt for being gay, or the devastating effects of a peer writing “ISIS” as a caption under a picture of your family at a school awards ceremony, so many of you found in your experience a mirror of Starr and her struggles.

Beyond merely recognizing the pervasive presence of implicit or explicit prejudice, many of you discussed the need to connect with others and contribute through action for a better world. “There can be no justice without allies,” one student contends. “And there can be no allies without a common message shared.” Another writes about the vulnerability and openness required to build these bridges. “Opening up and understanding each other’s differences will be the first step into making the areas and relationships with one another better.”picture of neighborhood

Your essays revealed that many of you are already working to create change in your communities, whether by participating in events as the 2017 Women’s March or the 2018 March for Our Lives or through your everyday actions. Many of you also wrote of your interest in engaging on campus and in our Charleston community in ways that continue to foster this awareness and dialogue and change. We are so excited that you chose the College of Charleston as a place to pursue these engagements.

Through words, music, dance, and art, your collective works tell us that tragedies from the not-so-distant past--the fatal shooting of nine church members inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, for example, or the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man in North Charleston following a traffic stop--are traumatic to the human spirit, but they are not paralyzing. Your creative multimedia and visual projects, alongside your earnest and reflective essays, inspire us to believe that your class will be leaders on our campus who value our many differences of experience, belief, and identity even as you seek common ground.

One student powerfully concludes their essay by describing how difficult--and yet necessary--such leadership is. “Unfortunately, we currently live in a period of time that is too chronologically close to slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and disenfranchisement for social equality in its truest form,” the student concedes. “Time mends all wounds, and while this is true, those inflicted by hundreds of years of oppression are still in the healing process.” Any viable response to this history of oppression, the student continues, requires a renewed sense of shared humanity: “only as human beings, and not as individual races can we accelerate the journey to absolute social equality. Personally, I believe that people are defined by their actions and not by their skin color, sexual orientation, or gender.  I believe that it takes a very special kind of ignorance to not acknowledge the humanity in another person instead of their character.”

Although the fall semester is nearly at a close, we hope that you will continue to engage with the themes and issues raised in The Hate U Give. Engage your peers in the difficult conversation that emerge about raceStarr with bullhorn and identity on our campus. And seek out those different from yourself to share your story and to listen to theirs.

Author Angie Thomas will visit campus on Monday, January 14, 2019. You will have the opportunity to meet with her and hear her speak in Sottile Theatre at 7:00pm. We expect a large crowd for this event, so please watch for an email with a link to free tickets through EventBrite beginning January 7th.


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