Diversity at Harding



It all began in 1924, when Harding University began as a senior college in Morrilton, Arkansas. After the merging of two junior colleges, the new university was named after the famous church of Christ preacher, James A. Harding. He was the first president of what was then the Nashville Bible School, but now known as David Lipscomb University. In 1924, classes at Harding began with only 288 enrolled students. Although the student body continued to grow, Harding had many financial troubles leaving some faculty unpaid. In 1928, Harding College obtained accreditation by the state of Arkansas. Growth continued and Harding College relocated to Searcy, Arkansas. George S. Benson was the university’s president. He worked tirelessly get Harding the financial assistance need for the university to continue. One Thanksgiving Day in 1939, president Armstrong burned the mortgage. This gave the university the financial freedom to grow ever since.

From 1965 to 1987, Clifton Ganus was president of Harding College. Under his administration, admission grew from 1,472 in the fall of 1965 to 1,767 in the fall of 1986. In the year of 1981, Harding built the largest auditorium in the state of Arkansas in George Benson’s honor. The college of biblical studies was established in 1973. Harding’s first international program started during his administration. Ganus retired and Davis Burks, took over as president until 2013. Dr. Burks gave Harding record breaking attendance and focused the campus in on Harding’s mission. In June of 2013, President Bruce McLarty was inaugurated as president. Prior to his presidency, he served as Harding’s vice president of spiritual life and a pulpit minister at the College Church of Christ. He is encouraging community growth in the community of mission.

Harding's core values

Harding focuses on the integration of faith, learning and living for students to not only gain an education, but to serve the Kingdom. Harding bridges the gap between intellectual excellence and Christian commitment, and drives students to make ethical decisions. An important value to the success of Harding is the commitment to community and personal growth. The faculty at Harding teach from a Christian perspective and students are required to attend chapel daily.

Statement on diversity

“The University serves a diverse, coeducational student body from across the United States and around the world, although the primary constituency for students and financial support is the fellowship of the churches of Christ. The board of trustees, the administration and the faculty believe that the freedom to pursue truth and high academic achievement is compatible with the Christian principles to which the University is committed. The faculty is dedicated to excellence in teaching, scholarship and service, and to their role as models of Christian living. The University community seeks to provide an environment that both supports students and challenges them to realize their full potential.” - Harding University

The Harding Bison, Nov. 14, 1957
"To that end, the undersigned individuals wish to state that they are ready to accept as members of the Harding community all academically and morally qualified applicants, without regard to arbitrary distinctions such as color or social level; that they will treat such individuals with the consideration and dignity appropriate to human beings"

Issues facing the country

Harding was founded during the 1920s, during this time period blacks were terrorized. A new uprising, the Ku Klux Klan, violently targeted black people and those of different religions. The term negroes applied to anyone with ¼ negro blood. Around this time, America banned Asian worker from entering the U.S. Minorities were specifically targeted while white Americans enjoyed post-war luxuries. Racial segregation took over all public areas, including schools. Interracial marriage was not prohibited and could result in fines up to $500 or six months in prison.

Diversity is an issue those in higher education have had to tackle from the beginning. Clemson University demanded to rename a building on campus called Tillman Hall. Benjamin Tillman was a Civil War political and participant in racial violence. At the University of North Carolina, Saunders Hall was renamed because in 1922 William Saunders was the leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Buildings dedicated to those prominent leaders in racial discrimination made attendees uncomfortable. All- white institutions fought against integration for years.

Prestigious universities’ such as Harvard, Princeton and Brown were connected with the slave trade by enslaving blacks to maintain buildings and grounds. Christians justified their actions by claiming slavery brought blacks closer to salvation. These views on racial issues caused students to become leaders in the slave trade around the world. Faculty members never spoke out against slavery in fear of the losing their jobs. Many of these schools not only prevents the enrollment of blacks, but of non-protestant Christians and Jews. Universities in the north had quota systems limiting the number of blacks who could attend every year. The south prevents blacks from attending college all together.

Student across America dwell in buildings dedicated to those who fought against desegregation for most of their lives. The Brown v. Board of Education court case in 1954 was the beginning to diversity on college campus’, as well as, public school in general. This case, and many like it, brought about constitutional rights to those of diverse backgrounds. In 1957, The Harding Bison came out with an article about students’ attitudes towards racial integration. At his time Harding College had a total of 986 student enrolled, of those 942 students signed a statement about accepting students of racial diverse backgrounds into the Harding community. In 1957, over 95% of the Harding student body felt that God views his people equally. This discussion happened nearly over 10 years before public schools began to integrate.

The topic of diversity has extended past in universities is no longer merely racial diversity. Students want a broad perspectives of cultures, beliefs, socioeconomic status and backgrounds. Students desire to known others and see the benefits in working alongside a person completely different from themselves.

What does Harding look like today?

“The world is so diverse and the world is getting smaller on modes of transportation and there are opportunities to travel abroad. It is important for students to learn that there is difference among us and to be able to appreciate those. Once we do that we can work more in harmony with one another. I think it is important for the university because it is having such an impact on lives. The institution helps these students develop their identity. In a controlled, in an academic environment. Respecting the differences of all the individual groups here. Harding benefits tremendously because Harding looks different today than it did 40 years ago and in 40 (more) years it is going to look a little different. It is a benefit of Harding to always have things put into place to be accepting,” Tiffany Byers, Director of Multicultural Student services.

Harding University 2016 demographics

2016 results



Harding is primarily made of up those with a background with the church of Christ. This affiliation has supported Harding through the years. Darci Flatley, an English major from Jacksonville, Florida grew up in a devote catholic background. She did all the sacraments, got confirmed, but soon after became an atheist.

“It was something that I fought a lot growing up. We went to church every Thursday with school, we had youth group every Wednesday, and then we’d going to church every Sunday and I felt like I was so involved with the church that I hated it.”

A teacher from her high school was a Harding alumnus. He would tell her stories from his days in college. As a joke to her teacher, she applied to Harding.

“I researched Harding and I found out that they only had a $20 application fee. So I applied to Harding as a joke, got my acceptance letter. I then forgot about it, was going to keep going to school in Florida, but then a couple weeks later I got another letter from Harding and it was a scholarship offer.”

Her Harding experience was not love at first sight. She was an atheist in a predominantly conservative Christian atmosphere. Unhappy with Harding, her sophomore year she left for a semester. Since coming back, she has found a community of open minded individuals that accept her and desire for her to grow as a person.


Travelle McManus, a senior electronic media production major, is an African- American from a predominantly black neighborhood and upbringing. His childhood best friend came to Harding a few years before him and during a visit, he fell in love with the campus and the community. Five percent of Harding’s population is African-American.

“People try to make an extra effort to reach out to my because I do stand out, but as far as bad experiences, I’ve never really had anything. Throughout the Searcy community there have been moments at Walmart or walking around the neighborhood with friends, I can get the sense of people getting uncomfortable from being different from the majority of the community.”


Sasha claims Russia as home. She found out about Harding because of her uncle came as a student 21 years ago. When asked what her first impression of the Harding community was she said,

“Sometimes I thought it was of fake because people were too nice and smile a lot. But then I realized there are fake people everywhere. It’s comfortable for me to be here because people are so nice to me and they’re not fakely nice, they’re really nice to me.”

The biggest adjustment since being in the states is the food because it is different. Sasha believes that Harding does a great job integrating and giving opportunities international students into the community.

Maria Alonso

In 1985, Sam Walton started a program to impact the globe. He and his wife entrusted three faith based institutions in the state of Arkansas to bring a class of students from central America and Mexico every year. Maria Alonso is a freshmen Walton Scholar studying international business and finance from Chihuahua, Mexico.

“At the beginning it was hard, because I was adapting to a new culture, but all the people here are so welcoming so the people made it easier to adapt. It is incredible how you can grow in your faith and get so close to God.”

She would love to see Harding grow in diversity through language lessons. Alonso speaks Spanish, English and German.

"A lot of times it’s just willing to have conversations. See it as an opportunity to share. A lot of times it about being willing to have conversations, not run away from things that may make us feel a little uncomfortable, but see it as an opportunity to share and to have such conversations,” Tiffany Byers said.

“In 2015, the college enrollment rate for recent high school graduates was more than 70 percent for white students, but was only 55 percent for black students. Moreover, there is a clear divide in the demographics of students enrolling at four-year institutions versus two-year institutions. Students of color (particularly black and Hispanic students) who enroll in college are more likely than their white peers to be enrolled in two-year institutions — 41 and 32 percent, respectively, compared with just 27 percent of white students”

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