Category Archives: Higher education

And here I am as a tyro journalist, at about the same time

baby journalist

I ran across this picture during the same search that produced the one of Dylan and The Band.

Evidently, I did not take this. I don’t remember who did.

Anyway, that’s me front and center looking at the camera, with the Groucho mustache, the circa 1965 Beatles hair, the octagonal wire-rims, the distinctly big-collared 1970s sport shirt, and the white Keds. This was in the newsroom of The Helmsman, the student paper at Memphis State University, probably around the same time as the Dylan/Band picture. So somewhere in the 1973-75 range.

This was during my stint as either editorial page editor or news editor of the paper. I say this because I’m turned away from the manual typewriter and evidently pencil-editing someone else’s copy instead of writing. I’m sitting in the slot position of the copy desk, the standard U-shaped desk that an editor I worked with after graduation called “the elephant’s commode.”

Dan Henderson, our fearless leader.

Dan Henderson, our fearless leader.

But we didn’t really have a formal copy desk and slot man. There were four or five kids, of whom I was one, who were the core of the paper and made everything happen, with other contributors coming and going. Another of the inner group is in the background at far right, his finger in his near ear as he tries to hear someone on the phone. His name was Oran; I forget his last name.

I don’t know what the long-haired guy standing in the doorway of the supply closet is looking at; he seems to be just grooving on a spot in the ceiling.

Note the detritus of a paper-based publishing system. Aside from the typewriters, there’s a pencil sharpener, a tape dispenser, a stapler, and several pots of rubber cement. The rubber cement was for gluing all the pages, or takes, of a story together into one long, continuous strip of paper. The piece was sent to a commercial print shop several miles away where the paper was put together, and which we had to visit to proof and let the pages go.

The newsroom was small. Whoever shot this is standing in the middle of it.

Dan pretends to point to something on a piece of copy I'm pretending to edit. This was for the yearbook. Notice we didn't make the slightest effort to groom for the occasion.

Dan pretends to point to something on a piece of copy I’m pretending to edit. This was for the yearbook. Notice we didn’t make the slightest effort to groom for the occasion…

The closed door behind me is the Inner Sanctum of whoever was our chief editor at the time — probably the late Dan Henderson, who was later an assistant managing editor at The Commercial Appeal. Oran was to work for them later, too, in a rural bureau in West Tennessee. Those bureau people weren’t in the Guild, and were treated like dirt by the people in Memphis. One night, Oran called in his story, and the editor took it, and asked all the questions he had while editing it, and then said, “By the way, we won’t be needing your services any more.” Yeah, he was fired. He had moved out of Memphis and set up residence in some dinky town for the sake of the paper, and that’s how they let him go. Sayonara, pal.

Some would say that’s a good argument for unionizing reporters, since it was the fact that Oran was not in the Guild that let him be treated this way. For my part, I think there’s something about Guild papers (The Commercial Appeal was the only one I ever worked at) that created an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between journalists and management, so the powers that be took out their hostility on the ones they could take it out on. But that’s just my theory…

So what are we to do with S.C. State?

A couple of weeks ago, I raised the question here of whether South Carolina should continue to prop up S.C. State University, given the institution’s repeated failures to be accountable for the money that keeps getting sent its way.

Now, a legislative committee has gone farther in that direction that I expected, proposing to shut the school down completely for two years, fire all the faculty and staff, and start over in 2017.

Which is really one of the bolder moves on any issue I’ve seen SC lawmakers seriously consider in quite some time.

According to The State:

Under a budget proposal approved Tuesday by a panel of the SC House, the state would:

•  Close S.C. State for the 2015-16 school year; there would be no classes or sports also in 2016-17

•  Fire trustees, administrators, faculty and staff. Halt athletics programs

•  Allow current students to get state scholarships to attend other S.C. public college or historically black universities

•  Assume the school’s debt, more than $100 million

•  Working with a panel of current and former college presidents that is advising S.C. State, develop a plan by Jan. 1, 2017, to re-open the school in the fall of 2017…

This seems unlikely to make it through the General Assembly, but it’s already changed the conversation. The next day, the Black Caucus called for S.C. State president Thomas Elzey to be sacked.


Let’s ask the question: Does SC need SC State?

Or to ask it another way, does the state of South Carolina need to keep propping up an institution that has become a money sinkhole, and is not delivering on its mission, with a 13.7 percent four-year graduation rate?

This is a question, of course, that has hovered out there since USC and other formerly white institutions were integrated: Given that other state institutions are open to all, do we need a separate college that formerly existed just for folks who couldn’t get in elsewhere?

And when we ask that, we hear various arguments for why an institution like SC State — or such private colleges as Benedict — have a greater affinity for, and understand better how to educate, a portion of the population that still lacks the advantages and support systems that middle-class whites take for granted. That such historically black institutions are better at meeting such students where they are, and lifting them to where they want to be.

And perhaps that is the case.

But at some point, we need to look at whether that job of lifting up the disadvantaged is getting done, and how much we are spending on dubious returns.


Struggling S.C. State University wants an added $13.7 million from House budget writers to pay off a $6 million state loan and improve operations at the college, which has one of the worst graduation rates in the state.

The Orangeburg college must get out “from under this cloud” to improve its graduation rate, S.C. State president Thomas Elzey said after he made the school’s budget presentation Wednesday to S.C. House members.

“The negative kind of statements about the quality of this university and the value of this university (need) to be taken off the table because we are valuable, and we do offer quality,” Elzey said.

However, legislators focused on S.C. State’s financial and academic woes.

S.C. State’s enrollment has fallen 20 percent recently but the school failed to cut its budget to match lost tuition payments. As a result, the state’s only historically black public university owes vendors $10 million in unpaid bills. To reduce costs, cuts have been made to staff and are being considered for athletics, the school’s president said.

The school wants its state taxpayer money doubled – to nearly $27 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1, including money to pay off the state loan – from $13 million this year.

That request does not include any money to pay back a $12 million state loan – to be issued over three years – that the Joint Bond Review Committee approved in December….

I added the bold-faced emphasis in those two places.

An institution that in recent months and years has only been in the news for financial and leadership failures wants its appropriation doubled to get out “from under this cloud?” And then what? What are the realistic prospects going forward? What do we really expect in terms of improvement and reduced need for state infusions of money?

When the bond review committee gave the school that $12 million “loan” in December, Gov. Haley said they “gave it away because they know it can’t be paid back.” And I’m not seeing any indications that she was wrong to say that.

So… where are we going with this? Where can we realistically expect to be in five years if the state keeps funneling in the money?

And at what point is it not worth it anymore?

Even hometown Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter says “we’re going to have to exercise some tough love” with SC State. But how much more love of any kind is it worth investing?

These are very tough questions that everyone involved is hesitant to articulate. Maybe these questions don’t occur to anyone, but that would surprise me.

There may be a million — or 27 million (wait; 39 million counting money to pay back the loan) — reasons why I’m wrong (and heartless and insensitive) to raise such questions. I hope there are. I want to hear them.

But I thought I’d play the part of the little kid in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, if only to see if y’all can come up with those great answers for me. I want to be embarrassed for having asked such silly questions.

But I ask them because it seems that we’re just stumbling along from crisis to crisis here. And I think it’s useful to step back, and ask where we’re going, and whether we want to go there, and whether what we’re doing is getting us there…

Touring USC’s new Darla Moore School of Business

Peggy Binette of the USC media office threw a poor blogger a bone and invited me on the official media tour yesterday of the fancy new ultra-modern, artsy, green, hyper-energy-efficient Darla Moore School of Business.

I’d have posted about it Wednesday, but was tied up the rest of the day.

The tour was like old home week. I ran into, let’s see… six people I used to work with at The State, two of whom actually still work there. So it was nice to catch up with them.

The building was really nice, too, although it will look better when the trees and plants come in, and they get some artwork up on the walls. I’m assured the architects have a plan for decorating the oceans of beige, but they’re not putting anything up until all construction is finished.

And it mostly is, or so it seemed. The building is fully in use, with students coming and going and faculty moved in to offices, but it will probably be awhile before it feels lived in.

In the video above, you hear Dean Peter Brews speak, with his South African accent, about the reaction of students to the new facility. He said they were saying it is “sick… which I gather is a positive thing.” For my part, I didn’t know the kids were still saying that.

For the basics, here’s The State‘s story from the tour. The messages for the day were:

  • This is a banner day for the Moore School, putting business education at USC in an enviable position in terms of facilities and capabilities.
  • The beauty, functionality and energy-efficiency of the building.
  • Collaboration. Over and over, we heard how faculty and students from different disciplines who never saw each other in the old, vertical building are already interacting to an unprecedented extent, which is expected to lead to all sorts of good things.

And, yes, the fact that the building is where it is to act as “a gateway for the University of South Carolina leading into the Innovista district.” Beyond that, I’ll let pictures tell the story…

USC dean sends out memo re academic freedom

This was sent out to faculty by USC Arts and Sciences Dean Mary Anne Fitzpatrick this morning:


TO: Faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences

Dear Colleagues:

In the past few months, academic freedom has become a hotly debated issue in our state. I need not rehearse all of the controversies that have erupted over certain reading assignments and performance events, as you are no doubt aware of them.

These controversies provide us with a valuable opportunity to affirm our most fundamental and profound principles. First, as university faculty, we can and we must be dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and truth in our disciplines, and second, it is our right and our responsibility as faculty to determine the curriculum of our academic programs.

It is not often that academic freedom is the subject of numerous media reports and broad discussion among citizens. We should therefore welcome this chance to explain who we are as an intellectual community, our purpose and aspirations, and our vision “to transform the lives of our students and improve the world they will inhabit by creating and sharing knowledge at the frontiers of inquiry.”

I proudly invite you to read one such explanation written by Professor Ed Madden, a faculty member in the Department of English and the director of our Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Published in The State as a guest column on May 1, 2014, his explanation is both eloquent and moving.

As your dean, I am deeply grateful for your commitment to our vision and for all that you do for our students.


Mary Anne

At first glance, I thought the memo was going to be about the national debate going on now about intellectual freedom on campus — the one sparked by all the student protests of invited graduation speakers. The WSJ had yet another op-ed piece about it this morning, this one headlined “Bonfire of the Humanities.”

And having made that mistake, now I have an appetite to read what academic leaders in this state might have to say about that national trend. Has anyone seen anything like that?

In the meantime, I suppose y’all could discuss this memo…

OK, well, just how graphic IS it?

I hadn’t paid much attention to the foofooraw over “gay-themed” books at the College of Charleston and USC Upstate, but something I saw at the top of this morning’s story did give me pause:

The College of Charleston assigned students to read “Fun Home,” a graphic memoir about the author’s struggle with family and sexual orientation. The University of South Carolina Upstate assigned “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio,” about being gay in the South…

Hold on — graphic? How graphic? I hadn’t seen the word, “graphic” before.

At this point, I supposed I could channel Woody Allen in “Sleeper” and offer to go off and study the material in detail and give you a full report later. But let’s just discuss it in the abstract first.

In this story, critics of the reading lists are couching their objections in terms of objecting to “pornography” at public institutions. Which seems to me a legitimate objection, if you’re one of the people expected to appropriate money for it. That is, if it is pornography. Having not yet conducted that in-depth study, I can’t say.

But if it is, I wonder — with all the fantastic literature that most undergraduates will never get around to reading in their entire lives, why does the curriculum need to have anything in it that a news story would matter-of-factly describe as “graphic.” It’s not like these kids don’t have access to porn websites. In what way is graphic material of any sort providing them with knowledge they can’t get without paying college tuition?

I tried to think of anything that I was assigned to read in school that was “graphic,” back in the licentious early ’70s, the days of “Deep Throat” and Plato’s Retreat.

The best I could come up with was Rabbit, Run by John Updike. I vaguely recall one dispiriting passage describing an adulterous liaison engaged in by Harry Angstrom. I don’t think anyone would call it “graphic.” It probably wouldn’t earn an “R” rating today (although the sequel, Rabbit Redux, which I read after college, certainly would have). It wasn’t nearly as prurient as God’s Little Acre, say.Caldwell172-GodsLittleAcre-frontCover

We read it because Updike was supposedly one of the great fiction writers of his generation. In that same class, we also read Crime and Punishment. Needless to say, the latter made a much deeper impression on me. I found Updike mostly… depressing.

I don’t feel deprived for not having studied anything “graphic” in school.

Thoughts about this? I mean, set aside the “gay-themed” bit that makes headlines. Let’s say we’re talking pure hetero. Is there any need for public institutions to use “graphic” reading material outside of a public health class?

My own gut reaction is to say “no,” although I supposed I could also without straining myself mount an argument that Erskine Caldwell‘s books are at least culturally relevant to South Carolina.

Such a discussion won’t lead to a resolution of this particular controversy, but I find the question intriguing…

Democrat demands Eckstrom apology for SC State remarks

This came in a little while ago:

House Democratic Leader calls on Richard Eckstrom to apologize for uninformed, ignorant comments about SC State
Columbia, SC – House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford called on SC Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom to apologize for his inflammatory comments regarding SC State University on Wednesday. Eckstrom was quoted in the Budget and Control Board Meeting saying, “these are kids that are going there (SC State) because they can’t get into these other schools.” He also commented that we shouldn’t call SC State a historically black college because we don’t call other schools historically white colleges.

Rich Eckstrom

Rich Eckstrom

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford released the following statement in response to Eckstrom’s comments.
“Richard Eckstrom should immediately apologize to the students and alumni of South Carolina State University for his uninformed, ignorant, and embarrassing statements earlier today. Those comments demonstrated a severe lack of understanding of our only public, historically black college in South Carolina.
As a result of his callous remarks, Mr. Eckstrom has insulted the names of prominent SC State alumni such as Congressman Jim Clyburn, General Abraham Turner, Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ernest Finney, Judge Matthew Perry, and the first African-American woman elected to the South Carolina legislature Juanita Goggins.
It seems as though Republicans can’t get through one week without making an offensive comment directed at African-Americans. I also call on the Republican leaders of South Carolina to condemn Mr. Eckstrom’s remarks to show that this kind of ignorance has no place in our political discourse.”

College of Charleston play flap draws national attention


At this moment, the centerpiece story at the WashPost site is this one:

CHARLESTON, S.C. — More than 750 people packed into a city auditorium here this week for a sold-out production of “Fun Home,” a musical by a New York-based troupe about a woman coming to terms with her closeted gay father’s suicide. The crowd rose in a standing ovation before the show even began.

The emotional reaction was part of a worsening political battle between South Carolina’s public universities and conservative Republican lawmakers, who argue that campus culture should reflect the socially conservative views of the state.

The state’s House of Representatives recently voted to cut $52,000 in funding for the College of Charleston as punishment for assigning students to read “Fun Home,” the graphic novel that formed the basis for the play. House lawmakers endorsed a similar budget cut for the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg for using a different book with gay themes in its reading program.

Republican lawmakers also helped pave the way for the appointment of a controversial GOP state official as the College of Charleston’s next president, sparking campus protests.

The fights serve as a reminder that rapid national shifts on social issues — particularly gay rights — are hardly universal and remain hotly contested across much of the Deep South. The views of people in South Carolina carry particular weight given the state’s early presidential primary, which gives voters here the power to help shape the GOP ticket every four years….

You had probably heard about most of this. I hadn’t heard about the play angle.

It seems like WashPost regards this as a pretty big deal, on account of our early primary. I hadn’t thought of it that way until now.

Remember how, early in 2012, I worried about the way Kulturkampf issues were being used to divide us in that election? Here we go again, y’all — two years early…

How McConnell is playing nationally

In one venue, at least…

Slate runs a fairly even-handed (despite the Slate teaser, “IS A MAN WHO DRESSES LIKE A CONFEDERATE GENERAL UNFIT TO BE A COLLEGE PRESIDENT?”) piece that first appeared in Inside Higher Ed. There are no surprises in it. I just find it interesting to see how our controversies in SC play elsewhere, particularly in a case in which the protesters claim that McConnell’s selection will hurt out-of-state recruitment and the value of a College of Charleston education.

An excerpt:

Trustees at the College of Charleston are facing heat from faculty and students for picking South Carolina’s lieutenant governor as the college’s next president. In the process, critics say, the trustees brushed aside warnings that Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell’s promotion of Confederate history could damage Charleston’s reputation and turn away prospective students and donors.

In picking McConnell, the public liberal arts college’s trustees reportedly ignored the school’s own search committee, which did not recommend the politician—who has never worked in higher education—for president.

Backlash has been swift. Students rallied against McConnell’s selection Monday in the largest campus protest in recent memory. “This is 2014 NOT 1814,” one sign read. On Tuesday the student government voted no confidence in the college’s trustees. …

As you see, not much new. I just thought I’d share.

Glenn McConnell, president-elect of College of Charleston


The trustees of the College of Charleston went for political clout over the weekend, unanimously electing Glenn McConnell to be their new president.

It was the smart move, and the best for the public college’s future, to pick the longtime parliamentary master of the State House.

Yes, he has an affinity for all things Confederate. There’s the flag, which still flies in front of the State House because of the “compromise” he and a few other senators crafted when it became inevitable that it would no longer stay up on the dome. There’s the Hunley, the raising and preservation and study of which has been a pet project of his. There’s the memorabilia shop he owned (I don’t think he owns it anymore, but I could be wrong about that). There’s the 17 or 18 re-enactor uniforms he has in his closet.

Then there’s the fact that, as the most powerful and knowledgeable defender of the Legislative State, he has resisted substantive reform for decades.

That’s the bad stuff, which is all detractors have focused on. And you can see how they would.

But those who have worked with him in the State House mostly just respect the guy — and not just because he understands how the system works better than they do. He’s a hard worker who can be relied upon to do what he says he will do. And that has benefited South Carolina, from the judicial selection reforms (keeping selection in the hands of the Legislature, but making it much more merit-based) of the ’90s to his conscientious efforts on behalf of the elderly as lieutenant governor.

He earned a huge amount of that respect with the way he gave up his Senate power to accept the lowly job of lieutenant governor when that seemed to him the most honorable course, and rather than mope in the corner, got out and took his responsibility as head of the Office on Aging (lawmakers had put a former lieutenant governor in charge of the office just to give him something to do) seriously.

Those are the kinds of factors that led a couple of young Democrats to issue glowing praise of him on Twitter in response to the news over the weekend.

  • Sen. Thomas McElveen Tweeted, “Congrats to Glenn McConnell on being named @CofC ‘s 22nd president. His statesmanship, pragmatism & steady hand will be missed in the Senate.”
  • Former Rep. Boyd Brown wrote, “Very proud of Glenn McConnell and CofC, and wish both great success. Any entity should hope to have such an honorable and fair leader.”

Brown went further, arguing with the critics in two subsequent Tweets:

  • “Some of the folks manufacturing outrage over Glenn McConnell being tapped to lead CofC have clearly never met the man…”
  • “…Sure, McConnell is an easy target if all you know about him is ‘Civil War buff/politician.’ But as a leader, he’s in a class all his own.”

I’ve spent a lot of time on the opposite side — the losing side, of course — from Glenn McConnell on important state issues. I could get pretty indignant about it. But that has generated respect, and I know what these guys are on about.

As I said, the trustees made the right call. The smart call, certainly. But near as I can tell thus far, the right one, as well.

Study sees future shortfall of college-educated in SC

This release just in:

Study Highlights Major Expected Shortfall in

South Carolina’s Future College-Educated Workforce 

— USC Economists Find S.C. Will Need Many More College-Educated Workers

by 2030 Than It Is On Pace to Provide —

Columbia, SC – March 6, 2013 – South Carolina is facing a major shortfall of skilled, college-educated workers by the year 2030 to fuel its economic growth, according to a major new study prepared by two University of South Carolina professors. The study projects that at current rates, the state will have a shortfall of more than 100,000 graduating students with the necessary post-high school education to be hired.  To put things in perspective, that shortfall is greater than the seating capacity of either Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia or Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

The study was conducted by Dr. Doug Woodward and Dr. Joey Von Nessen, top research economists in the Darla Moore School of Business. The study will guide the efforts of the Competing Through Knowledge initiative, a group of civic and business leaders seeking to enhance the state’s workforce preparedness through improved higher education.

Based on economic and demographic trends, Woodward and Von Nessen project that by 2030 South Carolina will have a shortfall of 44,010 workers holding two-year degrees and 70,540 workers who hold bachelor’s degrees or higher. This major projected deficit – if not addressed – could cast a shadow over South Carolina’s future, as the USC study notes: “The percentage of the population with a college degree is the single best predictor of a state’s national ranking in personal per capita income levels.”

“This report has to be taken as a call to action,” said Jim Morton, a retired senior executive from both the Michelin and Nissan companies and one of the civic leaders spearheading the Competing Through Knowledge effort. “If South Carolina is going to thrive as we all wish, meeting the educational needs of our growing economy has to be a top priority. Our state needs a comprehensive plan.”

The state’s need for skilled, college-educated workers by 2030 will double or almost double across the three levels of higher education cited in the report: jobs needing some post-high school work, those requiring a two-year degree or those requiring a four-year degree. This outlines a major challenge for the state’s technical colleges as well as four-year colleges and research universities.

The report also identifies several fields as likely to generate the greatest mismatches between what higher education is set to provide and what is needed, most notably the field of nursing. Nearly 40 percent of the shortfall projected in the S.C. workforce is expected in nursing; that is more than 17,000 openings for those with at least an associate’s degree in excess of what our colleges are expected to produce. Other fields that are projected to need thousands more workers than are projected include general and operations managers, schoolteachers and accountants, among others.

In the report’s conclusion, Woodward and Von Nessen write: “For South Carolina to create opportunities for its citizens to have access to good jobs and higher wages, it must create a workforce that is equipped with the skillsets that are in demand in the labor market.”

To help meet that challenge, the S.C. Business Leaders Higher Education Council launched the Competing Through Knowledge initiative. In the coming months, Competing Through Knowledge will be looking at South Carolina’s higher education system and current and future workforce needs. The group, featuring leaders from across the state and many different fields of expertise, will recommend specific on-the-ground changes in how South Carolinians are being educated.

Other states have brought a similar focus to making sure that they are doing all they can to prepare their workforce. In 2009, Virginia launched its Grow by Degrees plan, which resulted in several new initiatives to improve higher education being implemented there.

Former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, a Competing Through Knowledge board member, said, “The Competing Through Knowledge project is about bringing business and higher education leaders to the table to identify the jobs of the future and create a strategy to make certain that South Carolina workers have the skills necessary to satisfy those jobs.”

The USC study can be accessed by following this link:

About Competing Through Knowledge

Competing Through Knowledge is an effort driven by business leaders to make South Carolina’s working citizens ready for the emerging economy and the state more globally competitive by 2030. It will work with higher education to assess how South Carolina, at the two-year and four-year levels, is preparing its workforce for the future. The goal is to invigorate South Carolina with the knowledge required to attract and sustain more advanced economic activity while preparing more of its citizens for broader opportunities, through the growth of better-paying industries and entrepreneurship. Learn more at

Do you find that a little hard to believe? Maybe it’s because my office is only about a block from the USC campus, and I often feel like I’m trying to move through an ocean of college students.

Yeah, I already knew that we weren’t churning out enough nurses. As for the rest — I see that we’re expected to fall short in “general and operations managers, schoolteachers and accountants, among others.” Except for the teachers, that sounds kind of like the folks who would have been placed on the B Ark from Golgafrincham

Hey, it’s a joke, you general and operations managers! Can’t you take a joke?


Aboard the B Ark from Golgafrincham, with Arthur Dent…

What it would cost to make public college tuition-free

My daughter, who by the way earned a free ride through college through merit scholarships, brought this to my attention today, from a recent piece in The Atlantic:

Here’s Exactly How Much the Government Would Have to Spend to Make Public College Tuition-Free

A mere $62.6 billion dollars!

According to new Department of Education data, that’s how much tuition public colleges collected from undergraduates in 2012 across the entire United States. And I’m not being facetious with the word mere, either. The New America Foundation says that the federal government spent a whole $69 billion in 2013 on its hodgepodge of financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants for low-income students, tax breaks, work study funding. And that doesn’t even include loans.

If we were we scrapping our current system and starting from scratch, Washington could make public college tuition free with the money it sets aside its scattershot attempts to make college affordable today.

Of course, we’re not going to start from scratch (and I’m not even sure we should want to make state schools totally free). But I like to make this point every so often because I think it underscores what a confused mess higher education finance is in this country…


USC President Pastides rejects boycott of Israel

Stan Dubinsky over at USC brought my attention to this at the end of last week:

President Pastides’ statement on Israeli boycott

The essence of academic freedom is the free exchange of diverse ideas and opinions. I am in agreement with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities that, “Freedom of inquiry and expression are the foundational principles of [this] vital work, and free exchange of ideas is its lifeblood.” For these reasons, I stand with colleagues throughout the country in strong opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

At the time, I asked Stan if he could provide me with some context for this statement. (I mean, I’m aware of the “boycott Israel” movement out there in Western academia, but I wanted to know whether there had been any proximate stimulus for this particular response.

Stan answered me right away, but I’ve just today dug all the way through my email from over the weekend. After responding as follows…

Useful idiots on the Left have passed boycott resolutions of Israeli universities (the American Studies Association being the most recent and prominent of these).  They are clearly paying the price for their foolishness.

… he provided this link for further info:

(JTA) — At least 90 American universities and colleges have rejected the American Studies Association membership vote in favor of an academic boycott of Israel, according to a Jewish umbrella group.

The number, as of Dec. 31,  was tracked by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The rejections have come in the form of statements by university presidents and chancellors rejecting the decision.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Presidents Conference expressed its appreciation to the school chiefs who “stood up against this discriminatory and unjustified measure and rejected the ASA boycott of Israel.”…

McConnell to step down from elective office

By all accounts, he has really thrown himself into the work of running the Office on Aging as lt. gov.

By all accounts, he has really thrown himself into the work of running the Office on Aging as lt. gov.

Wow, it’s kind of hard to imagine the State House without Glenn McConnell.

He was, for so many years, arguably (that being every journalist’s favorite hedge word) the most powerful person in state government, for good or ill.

He’s the guy who was the biggest defender of the Legislative State and barrier to reform, yet led a significant improvement in the way South Carolina chooses judges.

He was the champion of limited government and spending ceilings, yet managed to come up with all that dough for the Hunley.

He was, finally, the man who liked to dress up as an Old School Southern gentleman, who then acted like a real gentleman by giving up power for a point of honor (when he agreed to give up his position in the Senate to occupy the low-status job of lieutenant governor, rather than trying to engineer a way around the rules).

Now he’s giving up that job, for a shot at academe:

COLUMBIA — S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell will not seek another term and instead push to become president at his alma mater, the College of Charleston.

McConnell has said he wanted to make a decision since the college’s presidential search timetable conflicts with the June primary. A new president to succeed George Benson will not be named until around March.

“Any effort to pursue both goals at the same time is simply not an honorable path,” McConnell said in statement Monday. “It would not be fair to good candidates who may want to seek this office. Most of all, it would not be fair to the voters of South Carolina to ask them to support me for lieutenant governor if there is even a chance I might not remain in the campaign. For those reasons, I have decided I will not be a candidate for re-election. And I will instead formally offer my name for consideration to the College of Charleston.”…

The State House is losing a true original…

A big step forward in medical research in SC

We hear a lot about setbacks to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. So it’s nice to take note of actual progress in a cooperative effort intended to improve health outcomes here in South Carolina — one that puts SC out ahead of the rest of the nation:

Health Sciences South Carolina Launches Nation’s First Statewide Clinical Data

Warehouse Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of South Carolina and major SC health care systems collaborate to track 3.2 million patients, 25 million health records

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A revolutionary information technology project launched by Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC) could lead to major breakthroughs in improving the health of South Carolinians and attract millions of dollars of investment to the state’s economy, including the recruitment of biomedical clinical trials and the development of next-generation pharmaceuticals and medical devices—right here to South Carolina.

HSSC’s Clinical Data Warehouse (CDW) links and matches de-identified (anonymous) electronic patient records from South Carolina’s largest health care systems to enable providers and researchers to follow patient conditions in real-time. It also allows biomedical researchers to conduct patient-centered outcomes research and comparative effectiveness studies across a much broader and aggregated patient population base. This is the first system of its kind to bring together three major research universities and several large health care systems.

Bioinformatics for the system came from the Medical University of South Carolina, while the University of South Carolina developed the operations software. Clemson University hosts and provides patient privacy and security for the CDW. And all participating HSSC member hospitals share their data.

The project is a reality in large part thanks to The Duke Endowment, which has made major contributions of over $32 million to HSSC to fund the CDW and other health care initiatives. The South Carolina General Assembly also provided critical support through the creation of the South CarolinaSmartState Program.

Mary Piepenbring, Vice President of The Duke Endowment, said the foundation is proud of its longstanding commitment to Health Sciences South Carolina. “The Endowment’s support of the Clinical Data Warehouse initiative falls squarely within our mission to promote health in both Carolinas. This innovative health care tool has the potential to inform and improve health care outcomes in South Carolina and to serve as a model for information sharing.”

Earlier this year, HSSC began populating the database with historical data from Greenville Hospital System, the Medical University of South Carolina and Palmetto Health. The database currently contains more than 3.2 million medical records. Data from Spartanburg Regional Health System will be added in 2014. The CDW will eventually have data from all HSSC member health systems.

This is an unprecedented achievement for South Carolina,” said Dr. Jay Moskowitz, HSSC president.

“While the United Health Foundation ranks South Carolina among the lowest states in overall health status, we can now say with confidence that we rank among the highest places in the world with this level of collaboration and this kind of access to knowledge that will improve health for all South Carolinians.”

Moskowitz said the CDW will be invaluable to researchers studying rare conditions that affect underrepresented populations. For example, less than one percent of the population is diagnosed with Sickle Cell disease, and using data from a single South Carolina health system yields a very small patient population from which to build a potential research patient cohort. However, with the Clinical Data Warehouse, a researcher can triple or quadruple previous sample sizes, expanding queries to include more than 3 million patients across the state. Researchers in South Carolina now have a better chance of determining the potential success of a given research project and easier ways to build patient cohorts. Moskowitz also pointed to the potential for groundbreaking research on obesity and hypertension, conditions which affect many South Carolinians.

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides also noted this benefit of the CDW.

“Researchers need large pools of data to develop and test scientific theories. Until recently, they had no simple way to study broad patient populations and doing so in real-time was almost unthinkable,” Pastides said. “The CDW provides clinical researchers with an integrated learning tool where the statewide patient population can now be surveyed and tracked in real time.”

Charles Beaman, president and CEO of Palmetto Health, said the CDW is an example of a new sense of collaboration among universities and health care providers.

“We are sharing data in ways we never have before, because we all realize that we share the same goals and the same mission: to serve the people of South Carolina and help them improve their lives through better health,” Beaman said.

If you would like to learn more about HSSC, CDW and other research endeavors, visit

About Health Sciences South Carolina Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC) was established in 2004 as the nation’s first statewide biomedical research collaborative. Today its members include six of the state’s largest health systems—Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, Palmetto Health, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, McLeod Health, AnMed Health, and Self Regional Healthcare—and the state’s largest research-intensive universities—Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina. The collaborative was formed with the vision of transforming the state’s public health and economic wellbeing through research. It also is committed to educating and training the health care workforce.


Jay Moskowitz told me yesterday, at the data warehouse’s unveiling at the State House, that he expects that 3.2 million number (the number of medical records) to grow as other health systems contribute their data. At the same time, the database will be compared to death records to cull out patients who are no longer among us, eventually providing an up-to-date picture of virtually the entire state population.

For more see the front-page story in The State yesterday.

Should $125 million be spent on the Carolina Coliseum?

The Carolina Coliseum, back when you could see it from the north side.

The Carolina Coliseum, back when you could see it from the north side.

I think I entered the Carolina Coliseum for the first time in late summer, 1971. The building was only about three years old then.

The occasion was the “Jesus Christ Superstar” tour. This was long before it was either a play or a movie. The album had come out a few months before, and this was a touring group that performed the music concert-style. It featured Yvonne Elliman, from the original album, as Mary Magdalene.

Great show, even without anyone really acting out the story. You youngsters have to realize we were into listening to albums with our eyes closed and headphones on in those days. In fact, the first time I heard the album, this girl named Mary (Riley, not Magdalene) was lying on her back listening to it on the floor of a beach house that a mutual friend’s family had rented at Barber’s Point on Oahu, with the stereo’s speakers positioned either side of her head, inches from her ears. I don’t recall what I thought of the music at that point because a large part of my brain was occupied just looking at Mary.

Then, a few weeks later, I was back in the Coliseum for registration for the fall, my one and only semester at USC. This involved shuffling around from queue to queue signing up for one class at a time, holding these long computer punchcards in our hands. I think the way it worked was when you signed up for a class, you were given a punchcard for that course and section. Then when you were done, you handed in your small deck of cards, and someone fed them into a computer and presto, you had a schedule.

It was the first time I ever had anything to do with computers (I don’t think I saw a hand-held calculator for another year or two), and I was impressed. It all felt very space-age. Which is a term we used to use for “modern,” in the days when we thought the moon was but the beginning of manned exploration of space.

So, you know, this was a while ago.

It cost $8.5 million to build the Coliseum in 1968 (which would be more than $57 million today). The new Moore School going up next to it has a price tag of $106.5 million.

Now, there is a proposal to renovate the Coliseum for $125 million:

Plans call for turning the 12,000-seat arena into classrooms and labs, a one-stop shop of student services, an adjunct student union and a practice facility for the Gamecock basketball teams.

To quote that revered academic Dr. Peter Venkman, “It just seems a little pricey for a unique fixer-upper opportunity, that’s all.”

But that’s just a first, gut reaction. Perhaps a case can be made for it. What do y’all think?

Pope Francis reviving ideas, tone of Cardinal Bernardin

I’ve hit on these themes before, as did Massimo Faggioli when he delivered the annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Lecture at USC earlier this month.

But I thought this piece, which The State picked up over the weekend, further makes the case that the ideas of Columbia native Bernardin may today be more influential than ever in Rome. An excerpt:

(RNS) The election of Pope Francis in March heralded a season of surprises for the Catholic Church, but perhaps none so unexpected – and unsettling for conservatives – as the re-emergence of the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin as a model for the American Catholic future.

While there is no indication that Francis knows the writings of Bernardin, who died in 1996, many say the pope’s remarks repeatedly evoke Bernardin’s signature teachings on the “consistent ethic of life” – the view that church doctrine champions the poor and vulnerable from womb to tomb – and on finding “common ground” to heal divisions in the church.

Ironically, the re-emergence of Bernardin — a man who was admired by a young Chicago organizer named Barack Obama — is exposing the very rifts he sought to bridge, especially among conservatives who thought his broad view of Catholicism was buried with him in Mount Carmel Cemetery outside Chicago….

Read the whole thing here.

Pope Francis as a marketing draw

St. Thomas More

Lately, I’ve found myself stopping at the light at Gervais and Harden, heading west on Gervais, and having time to contemplate the messages on the electronic billboard that faces the intersection.

Day after day, I saw the “Come to Mass” billboard for St. Thomas More, the Catholic chapel at USC. It caught my eye because I’d heard that the current chaplain — Fr. Marcin Zahuta, a former professional soccer player from Poland with a good sense of humor — was really packing them in at multiple masses each weekend. I’d been meaning to drop by for one of the masses, but hadn’t gotten around to it.

Anyway, the billboard I was seeing originally looked like the right-hand side of the one in the photo above (sorry about the low quality; the traffic light is quite a distance from the sign, and this was just my iPhone) — all maroon (or garnet, or whatever), with white lettering. Still, it caught my eye.

But then, about a week ago, I started seeing this new version with Pope Francis taking up about 40 percent of the space, and the rest of the message squeezed into what’s left.

I guess our new pontiff is seen as a draw. I sort of doubt the sign would have been amended to include a huge photo of his predecessor…

On Pope Francis, Cardinal Bernardin, Vatican II, American politics, and the church today

Today, Massimo Faggioli brought this WashPost story to our attention via Facebook:

Conservative Catholics question Pope Francis’s approach

Rattled by Pope Francis’s admonishment to Catholics not to be “obsessed” by doctrine, his stated reluctance to judge gay priests and his apparent willingness to engage just about anyone — including atheists — many conservative Catholics are doing what only recently seemed unthinkable:

They are openly questioning the pope.

Concern among traditionalists began building soon after Francis was elected this spring. Almost immediately, the new pope told non-Catholic and atheist journalists he would bless them silently out of respect. Soon after, he eschewed Vatican practice and included women in a foot-washing ceremony.

The wary traditionalists became critical when, in an interview a few weeks ago, Francis said Catholics shouldn’t be “obsessed” with imposing doctrines, including on gay marriage and abortion….

This was particularly relevant because Dr. Faggioli was our 2013 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin lecturer last week at USC — and the topic of that news story bears upon what he spoke about in his lecture, and what we discussed in a panel discussion I moderated earlier in the day.

I’ve mentioned this lecture series in past years. (You may recall when E.J. Dionne gave the lecture a couple of years back.) I’ve been on the panel that runs it for more than a decade, along with members of the Religious Studies department at the university, some clergy (Catholic and non), some members of the Bernardin family and Patricia Moore Pastides, USC’s first lady (and my fellow parishioner at St. Peter’s). Cardinal Bernardin, for those who don’t remember him, is easily the most distinguished churchman ever to come out of Columbia. He was born here, grew up in my parish, attended USC, then went on to be come the most influential member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the 1980s.

Our committee’s goal is to establish the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Chair in Ethical, Moral, and Religious Studies at USC. We moved a huge step toward achieving that this past year, with a $1 million gift from former USC President John Palms and wife Norma, more than half of which goes toward the chair.

Dr. Faggioli’s topic was, “Bernardin’s Common Ground Initiative: Can it Survive Current Political Cultures?

Before I share what he said, I should explain the Common Ground initiative, which the cardinal launched as he was dying of cancer in the mid-90s. It’s founding document, “Called to be Catholic,” was written by the cardinal in the summer of 1996, and began:

Will the Catholic Church in the United States enter the new millennium as a church of promise, augmented by the faith of rising generations and able to be a leavening force in our culture? Or will it become a church on the defensive, torn by dissension and weakened in its core structures? The outcome, we believe, depends on whether American Catholicism can confront an array of challenges with honesty and imagination and whether the church can reverse the polarization that inhibits discussion and cripples leadership. American Catholics must reconstitute the conditions for addressing our differences constructively – a common ground centered on faith in Jesus, marked by accountability to the living Catholic tradition, and ruled by a renewed spirit of civility, dialogue, generosity, and broad and serious consultation…

The cardinal was trying to bridge left and right within the church, calling on Catholics of all stripes to listen respectfully to each other. He was addressing the same long-standing conflict described in today’s WashPost story:

Some Catholics feel Francis is resurfacing fights that followed the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. Conservatives felt liberal Catholics misinterpreted the Council’s intention and took “open” too far.

The last two popes seemed to agree, making a priority of establishing “Catholic identity” among people and institutions by emphasizing the importance of crystal-clear doctrine,particularly on issues around human reproduction and marriage.

“The angry screaming debates in parishes — I don’t want to go there again,” said Lawler. “Things were calming down.”…

With some Catholics thinking that Pope Francis’ recent remarks will bring back those “screaming debates,” Dr. Faggioli’s lecture was particularly timely.

Massimo Faggioli

Massimo Faggioli

A central theme in his talk that had not occurred to me before was this: In the days of Vatican II and before it, Catholicism was largely a European phenomenon. Today, the American church is so dominant that what happens here has repercussions in his home country of Italy, and everywhere else.

In reading “Called to be Catholic” and its companion document from later that year, “Faithful and Hopeful: The Catholic Common Ground Project,” I can’t help but feel that the cardinal was talking about American politics rather than internal church matters:

The problem of dissent today is not so much the voicing of serious criticism but the popularity of dismissive,demagogic, ‘cute’ commentary, dwelling on alleged motives,exploiting stereotypes, creating stock villains, employing reliable‘laugh lines’ The kind of responsible disagreement of which I speak must not include‘caricatures’ that‘undermine the Church as a community of faith’by assuming Church authorities to be ‘generally ignorant,self-serving,and narrow-minded’ It takes no more than a cursory reading of the more militant segments of the Catholic press, on both ends of the theological and ideological spectrum, to reveal how widespread, and how corrosive,such caricatures have become….

I figured that was just my bias, based on my experience.

But Dr. Faggioli sees that as highly relevant. In fact, he says the American style of political discourse, which in many ways is quite alien to the European mind, has profoundly influenced dialogue, or the lack thereof, within the church.

Well, it’s taken me a lot to get this far, because there’s so much to explain along the way — which is why I haven’t written about the lecture and panel last week before now.

So from here on, I’ll just hit a few highlights:

  • After Dr. Faggioli had indicated, during our panel discussion, that we now had a Vatican II pope after two strict doctrinalists whose appointments had reshaped the U.S. Conference into something very different from what Cardinal Bernardin knew, I asked whether Francis and the largely conservative American bishops were headed for conflict. The other two panelists — political scientist Steven Millies and Fr. Jeff Kirby of the Diocese of Charleston — said they didn’t think so, and I thought their reasoning was both strong and ironic: Their point is that because Pope Francis is less down-from-above, more collegial, more into subsidiarity, he would act more like the bishop of Rome than supreme pontiff, and leave American bishops alone to run their dioceses their way. Dr. Faggioli disagreed, saying conflict is inevitable. I think he’s right.
  • Our speaker provided insight into the interview the pope gave with Jesuit journals — the one that caused such a sensation last month. He’s almost uniquely qualified to do so, as he was one of the people who translated the interview into English, and therefore influenced what the rest of us read. Today’s WashPost story quotes a conservative activist as complaining that “now we’ve got a guy who doesn’t seem to think clear expression is important.” On the contrary, Dr. Faggioli says, the pope was very carefully controlling what he said. He saw some of the rough drafts of the pope’s remarks as well as what appeared eventually, and the pontiff was taking great care. Not only that, but in talking to the Jesuit journals, Pope Francis was deliberately bypassing the Vatican bureaucracy — which is filled with his predecessor’s people. Bottom line, the pontiff knows what he’s saying, and he’s not letting the usual filters get in the way.
  • That said, this pope has one weakness in communicating what he means: His Italian is excellent, says Dr. Faggioli, but his English? Not so much. Worse, he lacks understanding of “the Anglo-Saxon mindset.” Our speaker said the pontiff apparently didn’t fully anticipate exactly how obsessively every word he spoke would be parsed by fussy, picky Americans. (And in keeping with our speaker’s theme, if Americans interpret things a certain way, that influences the perception of the rest of the world.) If he had, there are a couple of different words he might have chosen in that interview.

There was a lot more, but it’s a miracle if any of y’all have read this far, so I’ll stop for now. Dr. Faggioli indicated that his lecture, or part of it, might be available online soon. When it is, I’ll give y’all a link…

The panel -- Fr. Kirby, Dr. Faggioli, your correspondent, and Dr. Millies. No, I don't know why my tongue is sticking out...

The panel — Fr. Kirby, Dr. Faggioli, your correspondent, and Dr. Millies. No, I don’t know why my tongue is sticking out. I meant no disrespect.

I, too, will gladly consider becoming president of College of Charleston

I figured I might as well put my name out there in light of this report:

The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford says she’s interested in the president’s job at the College of Charleston.

Sanford tells The Post and Courier of Charleston ( ) she would be crazy not to look at the opportunity. And she says that not all schools need to be led by someone with strictly an academic background.

The 50-year-old Sanford says she has management skills from running her former husband Mark Sanford’s campaigns, and working in the governor’s office gave her an understanding of higher education budgets and other state issues….

If Jenny Sanford is at any point seriously considered for the job, and those are her qualifications, then I feel obliged to point out:

  • My own management skills have been honed over a period of 29 years supervising reporters, editors, and others involved in different aspects of producing several different newspapers in three states. This means I’m very much accustomed to supervising extremely independent-minded, egotistical people with intellectual pretensions, which I submit is far, far more like supervising a university than bossing a team of volunteer true believers who agree with you about everything. As head of the editorial board, I daily convened a group of strong-opinioned people and led them to reach agreement on an unlimited variety of extremely controversial issues, agreements written out and published within 24 hours — which is quite different from telling people, here’s the party line and stick to it.
  • I have obtained a far broader — certainly less ideologically narrow — working acquaintance with “higher education budgets and other state issues.” Not only that, but I have demonstrated over the years that I actually believe in public higher education and its importance to our state’s future, unlike certain other possible candidates I could name.
  • I’m well known to state political leaders and many key business leaders, and despite all those critical opinions I’ve caused to be written over the years, have probably done less to permanently irritate them than the team of people of which Jenny Sanford was a part. These folks know me as someone who has strongly advocated well-considered, pragmatic policies for our state, even if they didn’t fully agree all of the time. Among them I have some detractors, but probably not as many as my worthy competition.
  • I get along great with the mayor of Charleston, for whom I have the greatest respect. For what that’s worth.
  • Two of my children have attended the College of Charleston, with one of them graduating just this summer, which gives me a passing acquaintance with the institution.
  • I know at least one former president of the institution pretty well, and can call on him for advice.
  • I’ve actually done consulting work for two college presidents in South Carolina. It’s not a huge part of my resume, but it’s something I don’t think she has.
  • I’m very comfortable wearing bow ties, and own no fewer than four seersucker suits, one of which currently fits me.

I could go on, but this should be sufficient to persuade the trustees to consider me — if they’re considering her. And if they really, you know, don’t care about academic qualifications…