July 31, 2015

Citadel board votes to remove Confederate naval jack from chapel

The flag is one of 57 that flies inside the school's chapel (Image: Russell Pace/ The Citadel)

The flag is one of 57 that flies inside the school’s chapel (Image: Russell Pace/ The Citadel)

In light of the controversy surrounding the display of Confederate battle flag, The board of visitors for The Military College of South Carolina in Charleston made a historic decision.

The news was first reported by WCSC-TV in Charleston.

The Citadel’s board voted 9-3 Tuesday night to remove the Confederate naval jack from its on-campus Summerall chapel. The vote is only the first step, as the state General Assembly must give final approval for the flag’s removal under the 2000 Heritage Act. The school’s trustees are mostly appointed by the legislature.

The vote came six days after a gunman killed nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church less than two miles southeast of campus. The gunman’s white supremacist views and witness testimony that he’d told the victims he killed them because they were black has sparked protests against Confederate flag usage across the South.

“The Emanuel AME Church is our neighbor and we consider it a part of our extended Citadel family,” Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa said in a statement. “We will continue to support the church and its members in their time of need.” Rosa said now is the right time to move the flag from a place of worship to an appropriate location..

The Confederate naval jack is one of 57 flags that fly inside the school’s Summerall Chapel. The school says it was donated by The Citadel Yacht Club to the chapel’s namesake former President Gen. Pelot Summerall in 1939.

The flag’s presence has generated minor controversy in the past. Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby, a Citadel alum, unsuccessfully tried last year to withhold funding from the school until it removed the flag.

Jay Harper contributed to this report

Hillary Clinton backs apprenticeship program touted by GOP senator

Clinton speaks at Trident Technical College in North Charleston on Wednesday

Clinton speaks at Trident Technical College in North Charleston on Wednesday

Speaking before roughly 300 supporters at a North Charleston technical college, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton backed a jobs training and apprenticeship plan being pushed by the area’s Republican senator.

“We have a long history of apprenticeships in our country,” Clinton said during her speech Wednesday. “When employers invest in on-the-job training, workers are more productive and businesses are more profitable. This is one of those economic strategies that’s win-win for everybody.”

The plan is similar to one being backed by North Charleston native and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who is partnering with fellow Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey on the LEAP Act. That legislation currently in the Senate offer businesses a $1,500 tax credit for each apprentice they hire who is age 25 or younger. The tax credit would drop to $1,000 for an apprentice older than 25. The apprentices would have to register with either the federal government or the state to be eligible.

Trident Tech is one of several technical colleges that currently offer apprenticeship programs.

Clinton even gave credit to Scott (who enjoys an 83% approval rating among likely South Carolina GOP voters) during her speech. “This is about building our economy from the bottom up with people who have the skills, the drive and the work habits to really make the most of their own God-given potential,” she said.

The former Secretary of State said companies that invest in on-the-job training are more profitable, while workers are more productive.

National Republicans claimed Clinton was hypocritical for pushing the plan for Millenials while relying on a largely volunteer staff. “Clinton may want businesses to boost hiring of young adults, but her campaign expects unpaid labor,” the Republican National Committee said in an email blast before the speech.

Wednesday is Clinton’s second South Carolina visit since officially declaring her presidential candidacy in April. She visited the small lake town of Santee earlier in the day before heading to a downtown Charleston fundraiser after the Trident Tech event.

Clinton’s next stops are in Nevada Thursday where she will meet in a roundtable with veterans in Reno and then speak before the annual National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Las Vegas.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will be in Charleston on Thursday. His speech is expected to focus more on defense and foreign policy.

Jay Harper contributed to this report

SC State trustees declare financial emergency, clearing way for budget cuts

The interim board of trustees at South Carolina State University on Wednesday declared “financial exigency,” clearing the way for potential severe cuts at the cash-strapped university.

The trustees voted in favor of the idea after meeting in executive session on Wednesday. The move gives the school special financial abilities it would not otherwise have, including the ability to lay off tenured faculty.

“I am confident that President Evans and the senior staff will make strategic cuts – not across the board, but carefully designed cuts that preserve our strongest programs,” chairman Charles Way, Jr., said in a statement after the meeting. “Our goal is not merely to survive.  Our goal is to thrive.”

South Carolina State faces an expected $23.5 million deficit by the end of this month, with most of that owed to vendors or the state. In addition, the school’s budget situation has been made worse by declining student enrollment, according to interim president Dr. W. Franklin Evans.

He told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting that the cuts would impact faculty. “Any time you’re having to make adjustments that will affect the livelihood and certainly the employment of employees it is a serious matter and a difficult one,” he told Columbia TV station WLTX. “Unfortunately, the circumstances require that we’re going to have to make some adjustments that will certainly benefit the university in the long run.”

Evans outlined several other potential cost-saving measures at the meeting, including consolidating some existing facilities. Meanwhile, South Carolina’s Budget and Control Board has voted to extend the deadline for a 2014 loan until July 2020. The school has also received an additional $3 million to ease its finances from a Blue Ribbon Commission.

Gov. Nikki Haley and state legislators last month approved a bill firing the previous board and replacing it with a smaller version chosen by Haley, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, and House budget chief Brian White. Last week, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools notified SC State that it would keep the school on probation for a second straight year, but that SC State would not lose its accreditation.

SC State given extension on $6 million state loan

Budget & Control Board (File/SCETV)

Budget & Control Board (File/SCETV)

South Carolina’s top financial panel agreed Tuesday to extend the deadline for financially-struggling South Carolina State University to repay a $6 million loan.

The state Budget and Control Board voted unanimously to delay the repayment until 2020 after an audit found the state’s only public historically-black college is unable to pay off the loan. The money was initially due by June 30.

SC State last week learned it would remain on probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, but would keep its accreditation. The accrediting board had first placed the school on probation in 2014, citing problems with leadership and finances. Since that time, South Carolina’s legislature replaced the board of trustees last month and the school is operating under an interim president.

The school is projected to have a $23.5 million deficit by the end of the budget year in June. New board of trustees chairman Charles Way said 90 percent of that non-loan debt is owed to six vendors. Meanwhile, school leaders are struggling to restore their finances as enrollment declines. Only 2,100 students are projected to enroll this fall, according to SC State estimates. That is down almost a third from Fall 2014 and is roughly 550 fewer students than what school leaders used to calculate their budget.

SC State will soon receive $3 million more from a separate fund set up by legislators last year. The State newspaper reports the school would receive an additional $4 million next year under the currently proposed budget.

Fraternity, Clemson respond to frat pledge’s wrongful death lawsuit

Tucker Hipps (Facebook)

Tucker Hipps (Facebook)

Clemson University and members of a now-dissolved fraternity say they are not responsible for the death of a pledge who fell from a bridge near the school’s campus last year.

The statements were filed in response to a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of 19-year-old Tucker Hipps. The $25 million lawsuit is accompanied by a second $25 million personal injury suit. Hipps was a sophomore at Clemson when his body was found in Lake Hartwell last September. The Oconee County Coroner’s Office said he had died from head injuries, likely due to falling off the nearby Highway 93 bridge. The Oconee County Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the death as an unsolved case. So far, no charges have been filed

Clemson University, the national Sig Ep fraternity, and three members of the Clemson fraternity chapter disputed the lawsuit’s portrayal of what happened on the morning of September 22. All sides agree Hipps somehow went over the bridge during an early morning run with other fraternity pledges. But the accounts of how that happened — and whether other fraternity members were present — are very different.

The family’s lawsuit claims Hipps had gotten into a confrontation with an older fraternity brother over his failure to buy breakfast for the frat before the pledge run. The lawsuit does not say how Hipps fell over the roughly three-foot high wall, although the family claimed SPE has a tradition of pledges being pressured to jump off the bridge and to swim ashore. The lawsuit then claims the frat brother shined his phone’s flashlight into the lake while the other members took the pledges back to campus. It was not until seven hours later that another frat member called campus security to report Hipps missing, according to Oconee County Sheriff’s deputies. [Read more…]