Recognizing Our Past, Shaping Our Future

Southern Adventist University seeks to provide a safe and caring environment for every student. In response to questions raised by students regarding how Southern could better meet the needs of our students of color, President David Smith released the following statement in a video on February 13, 2018:

Transcript of David Smith’s Statement

Southern Adventist University is proud of its diverse student body, yet a persistent question remains: "Is Southern racist?" In the last few years, multiple racial incidents have been broadcast widely on social media, underscoring this question. The institution's history has also contributed. Southern was slow to integrate and even slower to acknowledge and rectify the racial issues our students and employees of color experienced. There has been a repeated pattern of listening to concerns from black students without pursuing strong actions to address them. While we have been making efforts, they have not been enough.

Read the full transcript of the President's Message

To my black brothers and sisters in Christ, you have shared your concerns, and I want you to know that you have been heard.

Today we are recommitting to step up and listen more carefully when you describe your experiences, to act on what we hear, and to take steps that will help us become a more close-knit, Christ-centered community.

Today, as President of Southern Adventist University, I apologize for our history, for not doing more to foster racial harmony over the last 126 years.

I apologize for any mistreatment black students have faced during our history.

I apologize for not trying harder to understand these issues and the challenges that have kept students of color from having the experience they sought and deserved.

But more than apologize, I ask for forgiveness from you and any other individuals who have encountered discrimination while on our campus. I am sorry that your experience was so much less than what it should have been at a Christian university.

I pledge a better day for our campus. In the coming weeks, we will be conducting focus groups designed to help us listen-in open and honest dialog-to the concerns of our students of color and to their ideas for how we as a university can take action to address these concerns.

I pledge to immediately empower our Diversity Committee to improve how we address these issues on our campus. For instance, creating, promoting, and supporting programming that tackles diversity issues, while developing an education process that will increase understanding and provide relevant resources. The committee will also recommend the best way to include diversity as a key consideration in the hiring process of employees.

I pledge that we will improve the representation of our diverse student body at the administrative level, starting immediately with the creation of a Vice President for Diversity position.

I would like to ask for the prayers and support of all of our students and employees in pursuing these goals. Let us strive to make Southern Adventist University a place where it cannot be said that we do not care about, listen to, support, or nurture ALL of our students and employees. Instead, may we become known as a school where students and employees alike exhibit and experience a Christ-likeness in all that they do. May we become a model for racial harmony in a world increasingly divided and hateful.


  1. April 16, 2019
  2. Final employee Race Relations Dialogue of the year is held. 
  3. January 17, 2019
  4. Dr. David Williams speaks at convocation on the intersection of race and healthcare.
  5. November 30-December 1, 2018: 
    Southern and the Collegedale church host Against the Wall for a weekend of sermons and discussions on race relations.
  6. September 24, 2018:
    Southern posts VP job opening and begins advertising the position in church publications.
  7. August 17, 2018:
    Diversity Committee continued to meet throughout the semester and summer. A key focus has been researching and defining the job description for the new vice president position. 
  8. June 12, 2018:
    Received $50,000 grant from Lumina Foundation to create the SOAR Initiative (Studying Our Attitudes Racially), which includes a lecture series, oral histories, a fun student competition, and research
  9. April 16-17, 2018:
    Conducted four group conversation sessions, facilitated by professional consultants, where any student could share thoughts and ideas confidentially
  10. February 25, 2018:
    Presented Diversity Committee and VP position at Board of Trustees meeting
  11. February 20, 2018:
    Town Hall Meeting with all employees to share information about new VP position and work of diversity committee
  12. February 20, 2018:
    Diversity Committee met with David Smith as chair