Darla Moore makes her voice heard, at the 5 million decibel level

When she spoke to students and others at the Russell House today (and yes, the turnout for this was SRO huge, unlike at the rally yesterday), Darla Moore acted with the class you would expect. No whining or moaning or pointless lashing out.

But boy, did she make her voice heard. You can watch the whole speech here. After thanking those present, particularly the students (and she made it clear on multiple occasions that her message was for the students rather than the media and university honchos on hand) for their “encouragement, your kind sentiments and your support,” she went on to “reaffirm my love for the USC, my support for the USC and for the state of SC,” and to speak of the “shared obligation to move this institution forward not only for ourselves but for generations to come.”

Saying she was not there to talk about “the wonder of me,” and adding, “This is also not about money,” she went on:

By your reaction, you have ignited what I believe is the collective consciousness of this state to an issue that is far more fundamental to the state’s future than any other challenge that we face. And this is about having the courage, and the singular focus to understand the critical importance of a strong, progressive and properly resourced higher education system — and I mean from technical colleges to research universities — and the role it plays in securing a bright and productive future for all of us….

We can compete at the highest level.

Just because I no longer serve on the board does not mean for one second that I will be deterred in my efforts to expand our reach for excellence.

And I’m sure y’all have noticed that I don’t need a title or a position to speak out; I just need a voice, my vision and a forum to be heard.

Just like you did this week…

Then, in her one directly defiant statement toward the governor — and by implication, toward her replacement, whom the governor said she picked because he shared her “vision,” she said:

I’ll not allow our university to become a discounted graduation mill. I want you to be proud of your degree; I want you to be first in line for the best jobs available. And I want you to stay in South Carolina, to be a part of our effort to make our state great.

Excellence is our standard, and it must be maintained even if there are those who would offer policies that would dumb us down….

Finally, she said:

This is very personal: There’s been speculation that I would take my checkbook and go home. I want you to know that my commitment to USC is as strong as ever.

She then demonstrated that by hauling off and giving another $5 million:

Ousted trustee Darla Moore told USC students today that she does not plan to take her check book and go away. Instead, Moore – removed from USC’s board by Gov. Nikki Haley – said she would give the school $5 million to start an aviation research center named after Ronald McNair, killed in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Like Moore, McNair was a native of Lake City.

USC had sought the money from the state to, it said, capitalize on Boeing’s plans to build 787 Dreamliner aircraft in Charleston.

However, House budget writers, faced with a $700 million shortfall in state money, killed the request, which Haley opposed as premature.

Moore is USC’s largest single benefactor ever. Her removal by Haley, who named a campaign donor to the USC board, has angered many USC students and graduates.

Key to photos below:

  1. There were plenty of honchos on the front row, but Ms. Moore repeatedly said she was there to speak to, and take questions from, the students.
  2. The view from the back of the ballroom.
  3. The view from the front (hey, you’re not paying extra for captioning here).
  4. Taking questions from students.
  5. President Harris Pastides was slightly mobbed by media afterward. He was very diplomatic, as I would expect him to be. He said he appreciated that the governor called to explain her decision — which was the first time I’d heard that she had (and marks the first thing I’ve heard of her doing properly — the first thing I’ve seen of her showing respect to anyone involved — in this whole affair).
  6. Yep, that’s Will Folks, all dressed up. I don’t recall having seen him this way. By the way, he said that while he sides with the governor on this issue, he was favorably impressed by the way Ms. Moore handled it.

65 thoughts on “Darla Moore makes her voice heard, at the 5 million decibel level

  1. Lynn

    What a contrast of small town SC, Lake City gives us Darla Moore and Ron McNair–citizens willing to work hard for what they believe and give generously for the betterment of the US and SC. Bamberg another great small town, gives us Trikki Nikki, the self-centerd, ethically and morally challenged, incompetent manager who is not at all generous, unless of course you contribute to “the movement.” Wonder what’s in the water in Lake City and not in Bamberg? (Do you think Bamberg wants to claim Nikki?)

  2. Steven Davis

    How is $5 million going to start a aeronautic research center? Is she trying to compete with the giant aeronautical schools like Embry-Riddle University, University of North Dakota, or Kansas State University? Schools that are known world wide for their aviation programs? Those schools probably spend $5 million just on faculty recruitment.

    It’s her money, but I think it’s foolish to start some small center and give enough to fund one year’s operating expenses. Will it be funded next year? I don’t see any of the faculty from those other ranked schools jumping ship to some start-up program at a university with no aviation program.

  3. Murdo

    If I understand correctly, Steven, she’s throwing down the gauntlet to the Nikster for matching funds.

  4. Murdo

    Oh, and I think Bakari Sellers is going to try to find some funds, so all is not lost.

    Still $5 million isn’t just chicken feed…or is it? 🙂

  5. Mark Stewart

    Did President Pastides mention when she called him to explain her decision; or was he adroitly avoiding a landmine?

    Boeing is trying to build these new-fangled plastic planes here in our state. It hasn’t gone so easily; there have been lots of hurdles to trip up the progress. Investing in this kind of program here would seem to me a real opportunity to foster a leading edge industry. The State article said that USC is spending $27 million to create dorm suites. That’s nice, I liked those back when; but I can see the far-ranging benefit this program has the opportunity to provide – and its greater than a communal kitchen/bar. I applaud Darla Moore’s commitment and vision – and that she was willing to put the first dollars in; you know, the hardest ones to acquire.

  6. Brad

    Murdo, I’m not sure where the match is likely to come from. One USC official said it might be COEE (endowed chairs) money, but I think that was just speculation, and I’m not at all sure.

    The thing is, no one knew what Darla was going to say, so no one was in a position to say authoritatively how this would work. I hope to know more later.

  7. Steven Davis

    @Murdo – $5 million is unfortunately chicken feed when you’re trying to fund a research center. By the time you factor in facilities, salaries, furniture, computers, overhead, etc. $5 million doesn’t go that far. What are they going to do for aircraft? Or are they going to have an aviation center without aircraft?

    I’m glad that she has vision, but this will probably go over like a plan to field a Division I hockey team at USC.

  8. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    An academic “center” can be one professor. Trust me, I’ve slept with one-the whole dang center.

    Darla Moore is one class act. Show ’em how it’s done, Darla!!!

  9. Pat

    It is gratifying to hear from someone who wants the best for South Carolina and her alma mater. Thanks for the link to the whole speech, Brad. To me, she is terrific more for her love of SC and her citizens than her money. What she does with her money is simply how she shows her sincerety.

  10. Murdo

    Brad, I agree. Don’t know either. I’m just a taxpayer and a voter, but I appreciate her rattling some cages.

  11. Brad

    She is.

    Here’s a bit of trivia for media-watchers, something I just noticed looking back… Out of those 6 photos, in how many does Jim Hammond — formerly of The State, now of SCBiz — appear?

    Correct answer, I think, is 4. Sorry, I don’t know how to run the answer at the bottom of the page, upside-down.

  12. Steven Davis

    Any truth to this (that we’ve not heard of until now)? This is from Will Folk’s blog:

    “At a packed town hall meeting on the USC campus on Thursday, Moore announced her gift (contingent on matching lottery funds, of course).”

    The important part is in parentheses. If true, this “donation” could be exactly $0.00 from Ms. Moore.

  13. Brad

    That would be the COEE (endowed chairs) money — the one and only good thing that came out of instituting the lottery.

  14. Doug Ross


    “the one and only good thing that came out of instituting the lottery.”

    I think the parents of thousands of LIFE scholarships would disagree. As would all the low income students who get scholarships for tech schools even without meeting the SAT and GPA requirements of LIFE.

    Unfortunately, schools like USC and Clemson took all that “free” money from the scholarships and then increased tuition to where the scholarship now only covers less than half the cost. The rate of increases far exceeded inflation.

    What should have been done was make the LIFE scholarship equal to the tuition and then put a cap on the increase. That would have kept the greed a little more under control and rewarded the best students who choose to stay in the state.

  15. Brad

    Here’s what actually happened, Doug…

    The Legislature passed the LIFE scholarships, to be paid for out of the general fund — the way to do it, if you think such things are a good idea.

    Gov. Jim Hodges then VETOED that bill, because he wanted to have a lottery. He had run for governor on having a lottery, and he wasn’t going to let lawmakers do an end-run on that by paying for the scholarships the proper, responsible way.

    This, of course, was all going on while the Legislature was continuing to provide less and less of the public colleges’ funding.

    So the public colleges said, “OK, if this is the way lawmakers want to fund higher ed — through this wacky scheme of having a lottery to dupe poor people into paying for middle-class people’s children to get scholarships — we guess we’ll have to roll with that.” And of course, they increased tuition. That was the only way to maintain the portion of revenue that was already coming from tuition, AND restore revenue that the legislature had pulled back from providing in the normal way.

    Lawmakers then responded by crying “foul” and complaining about rising tuition — you know, the phenomenon they caused by underfunding higher ed.

    THAT’S what happened, and is continuing to happen, which is why direct funding of higher ed by the Legislature now amounts to about 10 percent of total operating funds.

    This is why I say the endowed chairs were the only good thing to come out of the lottery. Because we were going to get the scholarships anyway. (AND, since they only acted as price supports for tuition — something that was inevitable in light of lawmakers’ abdication of responsibility for funding higher ed — the value of the scholarships is debatable anyway.)

    Now, perhaps you’d like to explain why this process amounts to “greed” on anyone’s part. Aside, of course, from the politicians’, who are greedy for parents of college kids to feel grateful to them for scholarships.

  16. Doug Ross

    Why do you persist in claiming that “dupe poor people into paying for middle-class people’s children to get scholarships” when it is not true?

    The LIFE scholarship is based on merit. Any student is eligible to get one if they meet two of three criteria: 1100 SAT, 3.0 GPA, or top 30% of class rank. And you only get to keep it if you maintain a 3.0 in college. Rich, poor, middle class – all have the same opportunity. According to this breakdown:


    in 2010-11, $66 million will go for tech college, needs based, and HOPE (lower standard to receive) scholarships while $62 million will go to LIFE scholarships. Considering that the LIFE scholarships also go to poor kids as well, it doesn’t appear that your statement is as unbalanced as you would try to present it to be.

    There’s also another $28 million that goes to Palmetto Fellows which is the best way to keep our best students in state. Those top students are the ones who will be creating jobs, paying higher taxes on higher salaries, etc.

    Now, if you say that it’s not fair because poor people spend a proportionately higher amount of their money on the lottery than other classes do, then the question is “Who is forcing them to?”

  17. Steven Davis

    So… if COEE doesn’t match her gift, she’s not going to donate the $5 million. I wonder if that’ll be on the front page of The State newspaper.

  18. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Nobody’s getting rich at USC, outside of the athletics department, so where the greed comes in, I’m not sure.

    These “poor” kids seem to have a lot more drinking money than I do flock to Five Points, and live in $500K houses in my neighborhood, when most professors cannot afford to—we live in one of the cheapest homes in the ‘hood, bought, in part, with my lawyer earnings.

  19. Brad

    This is NOT FAIR! Doug gets to be all cynical all the time, and dismiss government programs as wasteful and fraudulent, but when I do it, he lectures me for being negative…

    Why can’t I have fun, too?

  20. bud

    The only problem I have with the lottery is that it’s sponsered by the state. Let’s get rid of it and bring back good ole video poker, tax the revenues from that and fund education properly. No one is forced to play the games. Besides, if the lottery were to disappear that would make the lines at gas stations shorter. Seems like a win-win for everyone.

  21. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    The problem with video poker is the same problem with sexually oriented businesses (SOBs in common planning parlance). Both give rise to significantly increased crime in their vicinities. Innocent bystanders get caught up in it.

  22. Brad

    That is A problem with SOBs, and with video poker. But it’s not THE problem with video poker. Allow me to explain the problem…

    Bud, that sounds great — have video poker (as tacky as it is), and tax it, and regulate it. You just described the position that The State held on that for a number of years.

    But here’s the real-world problem, which kept hitting us in the face as we covered the State House: Video poker didn’t WANT to be regulated, and it didn’t WANT to be taxed, and it went about using its billions to either buy or terrorize the Legislature into neither taxing nor regulating it. Meanwhile, its attorneys tied up and fought, generally successfully, any attempt to apply the few regulations that were in place, to the point that they meant little. (Oh, and remember how it became legal in the first place — through a back-door, unnoticed proviso. No debate on it at all.)

    If a lawmaker DARED to stand against the industry, he had very well-funded opposition in his next primary.

    Video poker was as powerful in the State House as Howard Rich TRIED to be. The corrupting influence was palpable, and dangerous.

    So it had to go. And I still stand shocked that, between election cycles, enough lawmakers had the guts to rush it en masse and take it down completely.

    And the last thing we need is for it to come back.

    Now, you and I will agree on one thing: It is WORSE for the government to run a gambling enterprise meant to dupe the unsuspecting out of their money (a.k.a. the “stupidity tax”). That is most definitely NOT the kind of relationship the government should have with the people. Which is why I opposed it just as strenuously as I did video poker. But we lost that one.

    And having lost it, I will say now that the one thing good to come out of it (that we probably would not have gotten some other way) is the endowed chairs.

    And of course, the Legislature the last couple of years has cut off the flow of lottery money to THAT…

  23. Barry

    I use to travel the state a lot in the late 1990’s ( a lot meaning 58,000 miles a year on my company car for 3 years straight).

    The crazy thing about video poker to me was – I’d stop at some little nowhere spot and the local beat up looking mom and pop gas station would be dead – except for 6 people feeding the video poker machines.

    Then I’d ask around or ponder that these gas stations would have long ago been out of business if their business depending on gas and snacks. But with a few video poker machines, they were raking in the cash (and of course skirting the laws at the same time).

  24. Mark Stewart

    It says something about South Carolina that there is a linkage between Darla Moore and the lottery. Maybe she should just fork over the match funds and suggest it time the state got its funding priorities in order. That could be ditching both 388 and the lottery.

  25. bud

    Kathryn Fenner (D- SC) says:
    March 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    The problem with video poker is the same problem with sexually oriented businesses (SOBs in common planning parlance).

    Do you have data to back that up? I’m sure the Five Points merchants would agree that crime in that area is higher than normal. Could it be because of the nearby Starbucks?

  26. Scout


    Why do you just change the subject instead of acknowledging Brad’s point? I’m a little confused why a libertarian would have a beef with greed in the system anyway. As far as I can tell, a libertarian system would let greed run rampant, because after all we all have the right to be greedy if we so choose. The way I see it, a libertarian system would leave the weak completely at the mercy of the strong with no recourse. But that is an aside. The thing is even though a libertarian shouldn’t have a problem with greed anyway, in this particular example greed is not even in the equation.

    You say “What should have been done was make the LIFE scholarship equal to the tuition and then put a cap on the increase. That would have kept the greed a little more under control and rewarded the best students who choose to stay in the state.” It also would have left colleges completely unable to pay for the services they are supposed to deliver unless the percentage at which the state funds colleges was also fixed in conjunction with this move. Prior to life scholarships, colleges received funding primarily from tuition and from the state. So the state then said instead of giving our money to colleges, we will give our money to the people to pay their tuition with. Thus, the colleges just lost half their funding source. They essentially now get just tuition – so obviously what do they have to do to continue to make ends meet? – raise tuition. Essentially, it is the same situation as before – part of the funding is coming from student’s pockets and part from the state – it’s just all coming through tuition with half being from state funded scholarships.

    I know that is a bit of an oversimplification, as the situation is not that absolute – the state funding has not completely gone away, but it has been greatly reduced, and I think this example illustrates the point.

    Do you get the point or do you still think that colleges are just being greedy?

  27. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    My argument about video poker and SOBs is that they are not “victimless” crimes as our Libertarian friends would have us believe….I do not gamble, taking the Quakers’ view that it is trying to get an advantage you haven’t worked for. Nonetheless, if your church wants to run a bingo game or raffle, or you want to have a poker game in your kitchen, go nuts. No harm, no foul. Video poker creates harm to those who have not consented to it.

  28. Nick Nielsen

    The hypocrisy in the legislature complaining about failing high schools is that in the entire life of the SC Education Lottery, only $500,000 has gone directly to 9-12 education.

  29. Doug Ross


    But has the total spending decreased? What difference does it make where the money comes from?

  30. Doug Ross


    You (and others) confuse libertarianism with greed. Greed spans all parties.

    Libertarians just want to be able to decide for themselves how to spend the money. Liberals like to decide for others. No honor in that.

  31. Doug Ross


    I’m using the current meaning not the textbook definition.

    On Facebook today, the Libertarian Party had a great quote that fits:

    “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” Frederic Bastiat

  32. Doug Ross

    Interesting story on the front page of the Columbus (OH) Dispatch today.

    20% of the students in the county attend either charter schools or receive vouchers to attend private schools. Seems to follow the setup I would like to see: students are only eligible for vouchers if their current school has scored a D or F on the report cards in two of the past three years… they can get a $5000 voucher to a attend a private school IF they can show the student is accepted within the school.


    “In the Columbus school district alone, about 24 percent of children being schooled on the state’s dime have chosen charters or are using vouchers. And in Groveport Madison, one in five students has left for a charter or uses a voucher.

    And this is with a state cap on the number of vouchers, a ban on new charter e-schools and limits on where charters can operate and who can open one.”

    “One example: More than three-quarters of the 450 students at St. James the Less in North Linden attend with vouchers. That’s one reason there was a strong Columbus Catholic schools presence at a recent Statehouse choice rally.”

    Why are we so afraid to try that here in SC? Start with those qualifiers and see what happens. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Success?

  33. miller

    Moore should speak more clearly regarding her philosophy of higher education and the accompanying policies she espouses. Nowhere in her speech last week was she specific?

    Apparently, Moore is ok with high percentages of out-of-state students attending SC institutions, which is fine. There are good arguments for an admissions policy that does not limit students by state of origin. There are also good arguments for limiting the number of out-of-state students. Let’s have the argument in public.

    When Moore speaks in generalities (e.g. “policies that would dumb us down), she is not contributing substance and is reduced to a mere checkbook.

  34. Mark Stewart


    It matters because it creates symbolism and impressions.

    Channeling most higher ed funding from the lottery to the schools as tuition support makes the legislature look like its reducing the taxes collected AND gives the entire country the false sense that our public universities are expensive (and well funded). Neither is true. Just like the shell game the legislature plays.

    All that happened was to make a squishy process of funding even gooier and less transparent. I thought that would be something that you oppose. I do.

    I would rather have the state say that tuition is to cover x% of the total cost of a university, because the state recognizes the long-term societal benefits of higher education and a more knowledgeable populace, and that the state will make up the rest (or push back against the university when the funding requests get politically unacceptable). This process of supporting “scholarships” with lottery wastings just makes me kind of queasy. What kind of message of personal and financial responsibility are we passing on to our children?

  35. Brad

    Why are we so “afraid,” Doug? For a couple of reasons. The first is that we know why voucher advocates take the position they do: They hate the very idea of public schools (regardless of the quality of the job they do educating kids), because they HATE paying for it, and they want to defund education, period.

    And the second reason is this: It won’t work. It’s just plain laughable (or would be, if the stakes for SC weren’t so dire) that voucher supporters keep citing the “success” of their idea in dense urban areas. The main problem in SC is poor, rural districts — places where you could give every child in the district a voucher, and it would still not make economic sense for a private provider to start a decent private school — that is, a private school aside from the one that was created in that district specifically to exclude these kids.

    Yeah, I know what you’re going to say next because you’ve said it so often: But we could TRY it, couldn’t we? No, we couldn’t. Because we know that once funding was cut off to public schools, it would NEVER be restored, no matter how disastrous the experiment turned out to be. Why? Because, to return to my first point, reducing the funding was the entire idea all along.

    You say the funding would NOT be reduced? Well then, do me a favor and go convince the voucher advocates of that — their support for the idea would evaporate.

    The only thing worth doing is the hard work of improving the “failing” schools. Whatever it is we don’t like about them should be changed. Whatever improvements we think they need should be implemented.

    We can do anything we want to effect change in public schools. The same is not true of the private schools that would get the vouchers. I’ve always thought it ironic that opponents of public education complain of “throwing money” at a problem, then turn around and advocate sending the money to private entities that will be completely unaccountable for it. Now THAT’s “throwing money” — up into the air, at random.

    As for the Bastiat quote: That sentiment, which is held as axiomatic by libertarians, is just the lowest, most destructive kind of cynicism. Self-government is the glory of our country, our greatest achievement. It is the best way that people have ever come up with in human history for working together to address issues that concern us in common.

    I just detest the kind of corrosive, nihilistic attitude that that Bastiat quote embodies. Now that racism has faded (to the extent that it has) in our politics, the Bastiat attitude is probably the most destructive force in our public marketplace of ideas.

  36. bud

    I’ve always thought it ironic that opponents of public education complain of “throwing money” at a problem, then turn around and advocate sending the money to private entities that will be completely unaccountable for it. Now THAT’s “throwing money” — up into the air, at random.

    I’m generally in support of Brad on this issue and usually don’t write about education issues. But this statement is pretty easy to refute. The accountability aspect of the vouchers is left to the parents who will pull their kids out if the schools don’t perform. In any event we really don’t get all this magical accountability with the public schools. Several of my teachers (1970s) and my kids teachers (2000s) were pretty dang sorry. Yet they stayed on for years and years. Seems like little has changed.

    The best argument against vouchers is simply that they will amount to another giveaway to the rich who already have kids in private schools. Not sure we need more welfare for the rich.

  37. Doug Ross


    So whatever they are doing in Ohio (statewide, not just urban areas) must be failing, right? And the Catholic Church must be motivated simply by money and not the welfare of all the students they are bringing in? And the program is so bad that the calls to qudruple the number of vouchers over time by Gov. John Kasich must mean he’s ready to commit political suicide by throwing students into awful private schools.

    Like I said, the biggest fear voucher opponents have is that it might work. As long as the kids remain in failing schools, they can always blame someone else for the failures. That’s the South Carolina way – we’d rather fail our way than succeed following a plan from “up north”.

  38. Doug Ross


    Perception of USC is so bad that the record freshamn enrollment I saw must have been a typo.

    USC isn’t hurting for money. Drive down Assembly Street and by the Innovista area and then start crying poor.

  39. Doug Ross


    And your “throwing money” comment is meaningless. When a parent has a choice of where to “throw” the money, they aren’t as likely to keep throwing it at a failing school.

    When I ran for school board, one of the candidates said that private schools have no accountability. I said they do have accountability – it’s called the parents checkbook. Parents who send their kids to Hammond, Heathwood, etc. are very aware of what they are getting for the money.

  40. Brad

    bud says: “Several of my teachers (1970s) and my kids teachers (2000s) were pretty dang sorry. Yet they stayed on for years and years. Seems like little has changed.”

    Exactly! And that SHOULD change! Me, I’d go for a more radical change than most people: I say leave it up to principals to decide on their own whom to hire and fire, at will. (And for those who think principals would abuse that power: If the principal makes a lot of bad calls, the superintendent can fire the principal. At will. And you know how shaky being a superintendent can be.)

    We could do this — or some other approach that would work just as well or better. (Once again — and this can’t be said too often — public schools are the ONLY schools that we, the people, have the power to change.)

    The “reformers” who want vouchers also say they want something like this, and other things I favor, such as district consolidation and merit pay. But the voucher advocates (like Mark Sanford) who give lip service to REAL reforms put all their energy into the vouchers — because what they really want to do is defund public education.

    As for “The accountability aspect of the vouchers is left to the parents…”

    No, no, NO! Public education is not a consumer transaction between individual parents and the schools. Public education exists for the WHOLE community, and must be accountable to it. And that includes any money that is pulled out of the system and spent on something else.

    I need to dig around and see if I can find the column I did several years ago explaining the difference between approaching public affairs as a consumer, and approaching the same from the perspective of a citizen…

  41. Barry

    @ Miller

    “Apparently, Moore is ok with high percentages of out-of-state students attending SC institutions, which is fine”

    USC’s student body is approx 75% instate students- which is a solid percentage.

    If Haley is so concerned about increasing these numbers statewide, propse a law – get support for it- and pass it that mandates a higher percentage- just as North Carolina does.

    Don’t pretend that one board member runs the show in the entire state of South Carolina regarding percentages of instate students.

  42. Barry

    I am not the least bit interesting in vouchers.

    All 3 of my children attended a private preschool for 5 years, 2 of them attended private school kindergarten. Two of them are now in public school. Soon all 3 will be.

    The private school my children atteneded wasn’t interested in admitting more students. They were private for several specific reasons

    1) They found value in small class sizes.

    2) They did not have the room nor were they interested in a larger school.

    3) They were a Christian school and wanted to stay that way.

  43. Brad

    Doug, record freshman enrollment is the easiest thing in the world to achieve — you just lower standards, and open the tap a little wider.

    Record freshman enrollment is a direct effect of funding cutbacks, NOT a sign that the system is thriving under said cutbacks. The institutions let more kids in to get their tuition (AND, I think, some additional funding under the state formula, but don’t ask me to explain that).

    The USC trustee board is split between two philosophies. One holds that a “college education” is by definition a good thing inherently, no matter the quality of that education. It holds that the goal of the institution should be to enroll, and graduate, as many South Carolinians as possible, and to make it as cheap as possible for them to get in. The other holds that we need to improve the quality of the education that the institution provides, and admit only those students prepared to succeed under the higher expectations.

    Darla Moore was one of the trustees who believed in the latter. She has evidently been replaced, based on the governor’s remarks (and Darla’s) by someone of the former persuasion — thereby stacking the board a little more in that direction.

  44. Doug Ross


    What are you doing to make sure your local elementary school is providing the best education to other parents’ children? It’s your responsibility, right? The public doesn’t care if they don’t have kids in the school. That’s reality.

    Maybe if parents started pulling kids from public schools, the public schools would try harder to remove the lousy teachers to win them back.

    Agree with bud on the teacher quality. I’ve had three kids go through 13 years of public education in Richland 2. 90% of the elementary school teachers were good or better. 80% of the middle school teachers were good or better (but then my kids all went thru magnet programs so I can’t comment on the other non-magnet classes)… but high school has been an eye opener. I’d put the good teacher ratio at about 60%. Too many burnouts, too many football coaches filling teacher seats, too many discipline issues that are left unaddressed, too much busy work, too much emphasis on making powerpoints, too many free points given away for junk like donating cans at Christmas, too many second chances (fail the test, go to two help sessions, take it again)… I’ve got less than two months left to worry about it.

  45. Mark Stewart

    It says something about a university, though not about the graduates themselves, when the student body is comprised only of in-staters.

    That’s really a serious problem; especially for a state’s “flagship” university. There is nothing wrong with having a Berkeley-type school in a higher-ed system; in fact it’s necessary to propel everyone forward.

    This state is hidebound in provincialism too often. It does sort of amaze me that USC has a very highly regarded business school with a strong international focus – and that this expansive outlook seems to remain sequestered away. Where is the cross-pollination?

    Doug, will USC “be hurting for money” only when the place looks like an abandoned textile mill?

  46. Brad

    What am I doing to make sure my local elementary school is providing the best education, NOT “to other parents’ children,” but to the children of my community — the children who will be the future doctors, highway engineers, physical therapists, A/C repairmen, and everything else my community depends upon to function?


    I’m arguing with all my might against those who would dismantle public education. And providing a public forum for others in my community to join in this critical debate.

    This is what I do. This is the contribution I have to offer. If I were a carpenter (no, that’s not a cue for a song), I’d go build bookshelves at the school. If I were a dentist, I’d provide cleanings and checkups for the kids. But this is what I do, and what I have to offer, such as it is.

    And to repeat myself again, the thing you and Bud should do about bad teachers in the system is join me in advocating for the kinds of reforms that could change that dynamic. Instead of defunding the system, and thereby guaranteeing that there will be fewer and fewer GOOD teachers in our schools.

  47. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    I don’t have kids, period, yet I care deeply about our schools. I have been a volunteer at the local middle school, for one thing. I also back candidates who support strong public schools, not vouchers.

    One overlooked aspect of this whole lottery funding fiddle, is that nontraditional students do not qualify for lottery scholarships and are paying full fare. It’s a stretch for a lot of them, and is a huge barrier to returning to school. Older students provide a wonderfully diverse viewpoint and a much-needed dose of maturity.

  48. Doug Ross


    I think USC is doing fine, has been doing fine, and will continue to do fine. There is no evidence to the contrary. In fact, there are all sorts of brick and mortar monuments to the contrary… and literally thousands of high end apartments and condos springing up around the campus area.

  49. Doug Ross


    If a parent came to you and said a teacher at the middle school was lousy, what would YOU do about it?

    It’s your responsibility according to Brad to handle it as a member of the community.

    How about you do some pro bono work and ask parents to give you the names of the worst teachers so you can organize a community protest to get them fired?

    The longer this discussion goes on, the more appropriate the Bastiat quite becomes. ““Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” ”

    The great citizenry expects someone else to do the heavy lifting.

  50. Mark Stewart

    I’m not content for everything in life to be “fine”. The public school system should not be that; and neither should the state’s flagship university.

    That’s a great way to sink back into the dark ages. Do you want that for your children? And their children?

  51. Doug Ross


    I have one son who graduated from USC last year and another entering next year. Plenty of the top ranking students in his class are going there as well.

    Either USC is lying to everybody or else they think they can provide a top notch education. Which is it?

    Now if you want to try and convince the legislature to cut my son’s tuition bills for the next four years, be my guest. I won’t hold my breath. No matter how much they give USC, it will never be considered enough.

  52. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    As the wife of a professor for the past 21 years, I can say that the perception by students or parents about the quality of a teacher is not very reliable.

    I don’t believe that students and parents are the best judges of teacher quality, in this day of helicopter parents especially, where little Taylor or Madison can do no wrong, and may, in fact, have also done no homework his/herself.

  53. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Also, Doug, my husband has not had even a minimal cost of living raise for at least 6 years, maybe 8. He has to pay more of his health care costs, too, so he’s actually gotten a pay cut. Furthermore, because of the cuts in teaching assistants, he has to do more work, or do less with his classes. Costs go up for the University, just as they do for the “real” world. How are they supposed to pay for them?

  54. Doug Ross


    I’d say you are slightly biased when it comes to assessing your husband’s performance. Does he discount any negative feedback from students or just from Taylor and Madison?

    Does he look at the comments on http://www.ratemyprofessors.com and take them to heart? There might be some nuggets of truth in there.

    Maybe your husband should ask his bosses why USC pays its women’s basketball coach $250K per year to achieve little success in front of tiny crowds. What kind of message does that send?

  55. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    For the record, Prof. Fenner’s student evals are excellent. However, the last time he taught entry level programming, he was forced to fail several cheaters,per his written plagiarism policy, whose parents were more than happy to beg on behalf of little Tripp, who in several cases flat out copy-and-pasted code without even removing the name of the person whose code he copied, and not in any sort of “attributive” way.

    There might be nuggets of truth on Rate My Professor, but I have read comments about professors whose classes I have taken and found that for the most part, the students who rate them highly got good grades (whether because the professor was “easy” or because the students did the work) and the ones who rated them tough, by their own admission often times, didn’t do the work, show up for class and consequently got worse ratings. Also, “easier” professors get better ratings. An instructor I had got great ratings, although he was quite happy to cut class short, cancel it, waive numerous syllabus requirements, and so on. There are also comments about wardrobe,general grooming, facial features…I was not impressed. It seemed a lot like junior high school.

  56. Steven Davis

    “This is what I do. This is the contribution I have to offer. If I were a carpenter (no, that’s not a cue for a song), I’d go build bookshelves at the school. If I were a dentist, I’d provide cleanings and checkups for the kids. But this is what I do, and what I have to offer, such as it is.”

    Who would pay for the materials to build the bookshelves. How many bookshelves would you build before you had no more place to house them because of overcrowded classrooms.

    I don’t know of one dentist that would or could take on the expense of providing free dental care.

    If you’re wanting to participate, as a journalist, why don’t you provide a free, after school, writing lab for those who have problems writing correctly? One of the biggest complaints you’ll hear on college campuses today is that students can not write. They can text, but they can not write.

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