Another county heard from on endowed chairs


Samuel Tenenbaum (pictured above, back when he was running Columbia’s Katrina relief effort) hipped me to this editorial from over in Anderson this morning. An excerpt:

    We’re puzzled by Gov. Mark Sanford’s estimation of the effectiveness of endowed chairs for research, especially considering his usually forward-thinking positions on technology and economic development.
    Last week, Mr. Sanford encouraged House lawmakers to reconsider a proposal that removes the cap on lottery proceeds for the Centers of Economic Excellence program…..
    Before the lottery became official in South Carolina, we questioned whether endowed chairs were the best use of funds. But it’s clear that transforming our state into one that is in the forefront of research into health care, automotives and other economic development opportunities could not have gotten this far without the financial boost from lottery proceeds.
    For once, South Carolina is thinking not just about what next year might bring but what could develop in five years or 10 years or even 20 years in the future as a result of research efforts right here at home.

Frankly, I’m puzzled as to  why the Anderson paper is puzzled. Maybe it’s because it labors under the mistaken impression that Mr. Sanford "usually" manifests "forward-thinking positions on technology and economic development." Where they got that, I don’t know. If he’s done that, I must have been looking somewhere else at the time. His pattern ranges from neutral to hostile when it comes to ecodevo investments. If you’ll recall, his first big move in that arena came in his first month in office, when he put the brakes on Clemson’s I-CAR program. Soon after being hit by a tsunami of outrage from Upstate leaders, he let the project go ahead. Here’s what the chair of our endowed chairs board had to say Sunday about what that project has produced:

For instance, the endowed chairs program is a central component of the Clemson International Center for Automotive Research. The recruiting of three world-renowned experts in automotive engineering has already attracted major investment from companies such as BMW, Timken, Sun Microsystems and Michelin, and — all told more than $220 million in private investment and 500 jobs in the Upstate with an average salary of $75,000.

Also, here’s what BMW had to say recently about that partnership.

Again, as I said in my column Sunday, our governor doesn’t believe, deep down, in public investment in building our economy, whether we’re talking K-12 public schools or endowed chairs. He believes all that is needed for a robust economy is the right "soil conditions," which to him largely means reduced income taxes.

Finally, why did Samuel,  the head of the Energy Party’s think tank, bring this to my attention? Because Samuel is the father of endowed chairs. He came up with the idea of spending lottery funds this way, he fought to convince Gov. Jim Hodges to go along with it, and has fought ever since against short-sighted efforts in the Legislature to kill or curtail the program and spend the money on something more immediately politically appealing. Samuel also served on the endowed chairs board from its inception until Mark Sanford replaced him last year.

But while he may be a cheerleader without portfolio, he cheers just as loudly as ever, and for good reason. The endowed chairs program, his baby, offers a lot to cheer about — and will continue to do so, if it survives the likes of Mark Sanford.

12 thoughts on “Another county heard from on endowed chairs

  1. Lee Muller

    These are not real endowed chairs. Real endowed chairs are funded from gifts of individuals, creating an endowment fund, which pays to hire distinguished professors out of the income stream, or a combination of income and dissipation of capital assets.
    Like a lot of government schemes in South Carolina, this is a stylistic pretense at something more grand than it is. Academics like money from any source, but especially like this, with no strings attached to the vision of a donor.
    And I don’t mean to criticize Mr. Tennenbaum for his efforts, because he means well. I just don’t think these ersatz endowed chairs will have the substance of the real ones they mimic.

  2. Brad Warthen

    Am I the only one who doesn’t see how Lee’s notion of a “real” endowed chairs works any better than these, or than the other states whose programs Samuel modeled this one on?
    Once the money’s there in the endowment, and an extremely gifted individual is in the chair, and attracting other creative types, how does it matter that half of the money was once briefly touched by government? If I can let go of the fact that the money came from a lottery, which I despise (and I can only do that because I know the money will be spent on SOMETHING, no matter what I think), seems Lee could overlook the government cooties the cash might have picked up along the way.
    This depth of aversion to anything public is one aspect of what I was getting at when I wrote in the past that I don’t understand the libertarian IMPULSE. I can understand the concepts, but I don’t see them as holy. Yet there seems to be a religious sort of objection on the part of some of the most fervent libertarians toward anything that is public, or once was public, or once dwelt somewhere in the vicinity of that which is public.

  3. Uncle Elmer

    You’re not the only one Brad. All money is green, and it all spends. I doubt very much the excellent people we have already attracted to this state through the chair program feel like they were awarded with a cubic zirconia ring instead of the real thing. I also doubt the quality of their intellect has suffered for taking it. They are excellent examples of the kind of people we should be working to attract, and we should keep working on this even if we don’t use gambling revenues to fund it.
    Kudos to Sam Tennenbaum for his efforts.

  4. Lee Muller

    It does make a difference where the money comes from.
    First, there is the difference between having money donated, versus having to go out and shake down thousands of involuntary taxpayers or willing gamblers. There is no responsibility to those whose money it was, when it comes from taxes.
    I know liberals, and many academics resent wealth, and prefer museums, galleries, and everything be built by autocrats, but I just find more good things come out of wealthy people who donate their own money. Most of it is wasted, but less than when it runs through the hands lesser sorts of people.
    I have a big problem with USC and Clemson spending extravagantly to bid salaries against universities which actually have huge endowments, like Harvard, Princeton and Texas, just to acquire a feeling of status.
    I especially resent the huge expenses on iCar, Innovista, and endowed chairs with no concrete plans and audit measures in place to gauge results, when there are 3 research parks in the state with almost no research in them. These new projects would never pass first base in a private corporation.
    Lastly, the colleges have no business spending new money until they get control of tuition costs. They need to freeze or even reduce tuition costs until family incomes catch up with the out-of-control tuition and fee inflation of the last 40 years. Only then should they spend on new projects. It’s like buying a Cadillac to park in front of an unpainted house.
    The median private retirement account of college professors is over $525,000, in addition to their light work load and short hours, so that is one place that needs some examination.
    My entire career is in R&D in many fields: robotics, medicine, genetics, photonics and nanotechnology. I have worked in most of the major R&D centers, and I just think the legislature is easily bamboozled by technobabble.

  5. weldon VII

    So the poor and uneducated who buy the majority of lottery tickets are funding endowed chairs that target high-tech development in South Carolina, high-tech development which won’t provide jobs for the poor and uneducated.
    Oh, the irony.
    Still, in the long run, the program could benefit South Carolina’s economy, but, so far, the financial benefit seems to center around Clemson’s success with the program in the Upstate, where Republicans grow like corn in Kansas.
    Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the USC part of the deal to show some results down here, where Democrats grow like weeds.
    That sounds like a lot of other things to me: Clemson accomplishing what USC can’t, probably with a lot less money.
    And though Mark Sanford has seemed like an enemy to Clemson at every turn of his governorship, a pain to me, I still value what seems to be a merely symbolic push for frugality on his part.
    I guess that’s the libertarian impulse you’re talking about, Brad.
    Here’s a detailed explanation you probably won’t want to hear.
    There is a golf course at Cheraw State Park, as good a track as anyone might ever need to play, that is funded by the state. I’d much rather play at Cheraw State Park than at the course across the road, Cheraw Country Club, and so would most golfers.
    But, without state money, there never would have been a golf course at Cheraw State Park, and if the state didn’t keep propping it up with funds, the golf course probably still couldn’t survive.
    So guess what’s happening to Cheraw Country Club, which doesn’t get state money? Suffice it to say the older course has become the budget alternative to the state enterprise
    That’s what happens when the state, which isn’t a for-profit enterprise, competes directly with a for-profit entity that has shallower pockets.
    Thus the endowment of chairs by the state would serve to squash the endowment of chairs by local individuals and businesses.
    So South Carolinians are paying people from elsewhere to recruit people from elsewhere to reshape our state’s economy as they see fit, enticing new businesses to compete for the services of the good employees who presently benefit existing businesses, leaving the old businesses, like Cheraw Country Club, to catch as catch can.

  6. Lee Muller

    Good example, Weldon.
    The same thing happens every time the socialist medicine is expanded – businesses decrease their benefits and coverage. There are quite a few PhD theses documenting the way government funding stagnates private efforts in may sectors.
    The most productive expenditure of researh dollars is to offer a large cash prize for the first persons to do what a thousand government and university researchers have not done, because they were just playing at it, compared to an R&D business.

  7. Lee Muller

    The biggest reason to oppose this giveaway is that it is a betrayal of the students.
    The lottery was sold as a means to provide higher salaries for teachers, more training to develop more certified teachers, and more money for in-state tuition grants to students whose college savings could not keep up with the double-digit price increases of college.
    Now, millions of dollars that could provide tuition for thousands of students is being diverted into $350,000 salaries and perks for big-name professors.
    “For the children” always turns out to be bait-and-switch.

  8. Doug Ross

    The “value” of the Life scholarship has been completely eliminated in the past few years due to double digit % tuition increases. That’s what happens when you give a government entity more access to “free” money. The expenses magically increase to consume it all.
    Tuition at state colleges should be free for all in-state students. That’s a good use of tax money. Let the colleges fight with the legislators over how much money to spend instead of taking the free gift from the lottery and jacking up the costs for current students.

  9. Lee Muller

    Private managers would have their bonuses tied to controlling costs. College administrators have no such performance requirements; they just spend everything they can get, then go back for more from the taxpayers and students.
    How is it the USC can have a Business School that doesn’t supply any management expertise to create real budgets and cost control systems?

  10. Doug Ross

    Just read on FITSnews that USC has three taxpayer paid lobbyists whose function is to work their “magic” down at the State House to bring even more tax dollars into the university.
    That’s like paying the crook to rob your house…


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