Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Brad Warthen responds, "The State completely misses the point about Clemson"

Brad Warthen, The State's Editorial Page Editor, was kind enough to comment on my post, The State completely misses the point about Clemson.

In his original editorial, Brad said:
IN A SMALL, POOR state with 33 public colleges spread out over 79 campuses — that’s 1.7 per county — one university decides, pretty much on its own, to build a whole new campus all the way on the other side of the state. Without any real public debate. Just because the university wanted to.
I noted that "the editorial is factually inaccurate," because the SC Endowed Chair Review Board, the SC Bond Act Review Committee, and the City of North Charleston all participated in creating the Restoration Institute in Charleston.

Brad defends himself saying what he really meant wasn't that Clemson acted totally alone, because it didn't, but rather that
We have for about 15 years held the position... that we need a Board of Regents or some similar organization to set priorities for higher education, to set missions and avoid duplication... 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.
Now if Clemson had tried to spin their words like this, The State reporter that wrote the Hunley series, John Monk, would have skewered the university on a stake like a witch at Salem. Oh that's right, he did skewer Clemson with about the same justification as the hysterical accusers at Salem.

Let's not dwell on semantics. Brad raises a much larger and more important point that should be debated.
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.
Now once again, it's not factually accurate to say there is a "complete absence of any overall guiding plan or structure for higher education endeavors in South Carolina." We do have a Commission on Higher Education, but to Brad's point it is weak and ineffective.

I'm putting together some additional thoughts that I'll post on this issue. But for now, what do you think?


Evan said...

More bureaucracy is never a good thing.

Anonymous said...

My comment is a broad based response to all the education posts recently:

Obviously, the need to improve education and graduation rates is critical for the long run stability of SC. The hard sell is to our youth, why should I stay in school?

After reading an article today by Dr. Charles Wheelan's, a University of Chicago grad, about France, their youth, and job protection policies that do more harm than good, I thought about how similar our problems are and what we can learn from them. As Dr. Wheelan pointed out in his last paragraph, increased productivity is key to greater wealth and a better economy and that can only be achieved through better education. http://finance.yahoo.com/columnist/article/economist/5319

In South Carolina we continue to talk about the shortcomings of our education methods, policies, leaders, but we rarely connect the dots for our youth as to why and how education will increase their quality of life.

I believe one innovative approach would be to get large and small employers in SC involved. Incent these groups to plan their worker supply needs with a longer-term lens and share the gaps they see in the coming years; therefore allowing our communities to step-up and encourage our youth to be a part of this worker pipeline.

If existing companies can be convinced to assess their long-term hiring/forecasting needs and match that up against demographic trends in the state, then we can develop methods to engage our youth to continue to gain higher education to fill the skill gaps in the next 2 to 8 years. This is easy to do for companies like Milliken, SCANA, & Blackbaud. They have large HR teams and are constantly looking for new employees and don’t want to have to bring people in out-of-state.

I think technology can be useful here in lieu of traditional guidance counselors by quickly collecting these job profiles/opportunities, thereby improving the connection and communication between the demand (employers) and supply (youth). The logic and incentives are clear and are not hard to put into practice when both parties are eager to match up. Imagine short videos on what it’s like to be a Blackbaud executive or a SLED officer for recent high school or college graduates.

This can be done without any government intervention or support. Employers simply need to show what opportunities exist, why it’s great to work for them, and how to get the skills/qualifications to get there. At this point, it’s a marketing and sales effort and the potential customers are the students.

Granted, this doesn't address new job creation, but it does help reduce the cost per hire for employers, keeps our young adults in school working towards a goal, and improves GDP per capita in the state. All of which puts us in good footing for the future.

Rupal Shah

Scott J. Pearson said...

A comprehensive plan would be a good thing. However, until the state shows a willingness to support higher ed financially, it has little right to try to direct schools around. After all, Clemson could go private without losing too much financial ground. Only those who put their money where their mouth is deserve to tell higher ed what to do,

sacbuoy said...

I'm with Warthen on this one. All of those so-called boards that Clemson had to go to are simply a bunch of politically appointed good-old-boys who rubber-stamp whomever's pet project gets put in front of them.

That is, unless their political overseers tell them not to. In South Carolina, it's still all about connections.

The whole Hunley thing is pure pork. Swamp Fox's reflexive defense of Clemson may have more to do with who's alumni ox is being gored than with the merits of attaching millions of dollars in pork to some hunk of rusty metal that belonged to the losing side in a war that took place 150 years ago.

Swamp Fox said...

You would be right if this was all about a submarine. It isn't.

Check out Clemson's Restoration Institute.