Saturday, May 20, 2006

The State completely misses the point about Clemson

Recently The State hyperventilated over the Hunley project in Charleston. In the process, they also smeared Clemson in a recent editorial. They would have been well served if they had taken a breath and thought about what they were saying.

First, the editorial is factually inaccurate, stating that Clemson decided “pretty much on its own, to build a whole new campus all the way on the other side of the state.” In fact, in 2004 the SC Endowed Chair Review Board, in a process reviewed by academic peers from out-of-state, endowed a research chair that is the core of the Restoration Institute. In 2005, the SC Bond Act Review Committee provided $10 million for infrastructure, and the City of North Charleston donated $14 million of land. So Clemson hardly acted alone.

The vision of the Institute is to build on the global reputation of Charleston “to create a leading knowledge-based, export-oriented industry cluster” that becomes the world’s “premiere home of restoration knowledge and expertise.” Advances will be made in disciplines from preservation and healthy communities to advanced materials and urban ecology. The Hunley is a marquee project, but it is only one project.

This is exactly the type of exciting, aspirational vision that will leverage our historical assets into knowledge-based economic development that grows high wage jobs in South Carolina. To suggest that the Clemson Restoration Institute is merely pandering to a powerful politician is ill informed and a disservice to the discussion about how to move the state forward.


Anonymous said...

Very well written, "Swamp Fox!"
I really hope that you sent this as a "Letter To The Editor" to THE STATE. I also hope that they publish it. Please let us all know if you did send it in.
Mike Myers, Clemson, SC

Anonymous said...

well written, indeed! Send it to the GREENVILLE NEWS, HERALD JOURNAL & CHARLESTON NEWS AND COURIER too. Let's see how well our local media represent the realities of this issue!

Greenville, SC

Big Daddy said...

Dear Col. Marion,

You missed the point, although I can see how you did. Everything we write is within the contest of everything else we write. Given finite space (and finite time on the part of the reader), we can't repeat the explanations of every position to which we refer in every editorial, and that can lead to confusion, as it apparently did here.

We have for about 15 years held the position -- and the governor several years ago joined us in this position -- that we need a Board of Regents or some similar organization to set priorities for higher education, to set missions and avoid duplication. Such an entity would have said -- if it thought such an enterprise a good use of the finite resources available for the missions of higher ed -- would have said "Wait a minute: If we're going to have such a thing, is Clemson the right school to do it?"

This is something that would occur before the endowed chairs board or anyone else had a hand in it.

Instead, what we have in South Carolina is the individual fiefdoms deciding on their own what their missions will be, and pursuing them on their own. Each school goes to the Legislature, or the Endowed Chair board, or the bond review committee, or whomever, and makes its pitch in the complete absence of any overall guiding plan or structure for higher education endeavors in South Carolina.

Perhaps the editorial should have been clearer in evoking this definition of "pretty much on its own." But it isn't factually inaccurate. It doesn't matter how many more entities checked off on the proposal after it was hatched. Our point was that it was hatched by Clemson, and not within the context of a comprehensive approach to the missions of higher education.

You'll notice that it wasn't the governor, or someone else with statewide authority, writing the op-ed (which ran the same day as our editorial, and was allowed much more space, I hope you notice) that defended Clemson's action. That's because no one is in a position in our state to say, "Yes, this is what we expect Clemson to do in its role of serving South Carolina." Clemson had to defend itself, because it is more or less an autonomous entity. This fact supports our overall point about the problem with higher ed in SC.

-- Brad Warthen

Brad Warthen said...

Oops. I think the software signed me as "Big Daddy," which is what my granddaughter calls me. It should have identified me as Brad Warthen, editorial page editor of The State.