October 4, 2015

USC-Upstate chancellor announces plans to step down

Image: USC-Upstate

Chancellor Tom Moore (Image: USC-Upstate)

The chancellor at University of South Carolina-Upstate says he will step down from his post at the Spartanburg campus.

Chancellor Thomas Moore made the announcement during the annual University Day address. His voice noticeably cracked as he said he and his wife had decided his resignation was best.

“As much as I look forward to the year ahead, it’s going to be tough,” Moore said, wrapping up his speech. “Working with you — the faculty, staff, administration, students, clubs and orgs, everything — but Martha and I have decided there are a lot of things that deserve our attention.”

He did not set a date for his departure, saying that will stay in office until USC system President Harris Pastides could conduct a search for his replacement.

“It’s not a waning of interest. It’s not a loss of energy. It’s not a loss of commitment,” Moore told students. “It’s certainly not a loss of optimism about this university in the upcoming year. (President Pastides) has told me that USC-Upstate cannot do what it needs to do, and we have a lot to do this year, with a lame-duck leader.”

Moore was named chancellor at the four-year branch campus in 2011 after serving eight years as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Winthrop University in Rock Hill. His four years at the school were marked with record enrollment and new construction. But the college faculty soured on him the last two years, even giving him a vote of “no confidence” in March over what they called a lack of trust and lack of communication over budget cuts.

Faculty at the school began turning on Moore in May 2014 after more than $450,000 in cuts was announced and school leaders said they would close Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. That center had come under fire from conservative state legislators that year over its plans to host several LGBT-themed events. The event was canceled after complaints from legislators. At the time, Moore said the cuts were “unfortunate timing,” but just coincidence.

While the center remains open one year later, the campus child development center did not survive the cuts.

Charleston school district bars Confederate flag emblems from campus

Public schools in Charleston will no longer allow students to wear Confederate flag-themed clothing or other apparel.

The announcement from the Charleston County School District came as students are set to return to school for the first time since nine people were killed at a Charleston AME church this summer in an attack that was deemed by investigators as racially-motivated. Since that shooting, state governments, schools, businesses, and other entities have been trying to clamp down on the use of a flag that many deem racially offensive, but others defend as misunderstood.

The Charleston Post & Courier first reported that the school district had notified students and parents of the new guidelines through a separate page included in the 2015-16 school year’s code of conduct. “In light of a year marred with racially divisive and tragic events, the Charleston County School District has decided to prohibit students from wearing on campus clothing, jewelry or other apparel bearing the image of the Confederate flag,” the notice stated.

Students also will not be allowed to fly Confederate flags from their vehicles and any student whose vehicle prominently features the flag’s image will be asked to remove the image. The district said each violation will be handled on a case-by-case basis, but that students could face “disciplinary action” for continuing to use flag-themed images.

District spokesman Daniel Head said it was a staff decision to add the section to the code of conduct, not a vote from the district’s board of trustees.

More than 48,000 students attend 84 schools and specialized programs in the district.

Former SC governor endorses Clinton

Former Gov. Dick Riley (File)

Former Gov. Dick Riley (File)

Former South Carolina Gov. Dick Riley threw his support behind Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s run for president on Tuesday — an announcement most expected due his time working in former President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet.

Riley joined another former Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges, who is already active in the Clinton 2016 campaign. The state’s only other living Democratic governor 93-year-old Ernest “Fritz” Hollings has not backed any candidate.

“Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime getting results for women, children and families,” he wrote in a statement. “She will spend every day as president working to help hard-working South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead.”

Riley served as governor from 1979 to 1987. Several years later, he would serve as President Clinton’s Secretary of Education from 1993-2001. He later became a senior partner in the law firm Nelson, Mullins, Riley, and Scarborough.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has been the most active in South Carolina to this point, although Democratic candidates appear to be focusing most of their energy on Iowa and New Hampshire. She last visited the state in late July.

Man sentenced to 40 years for paralyzing USC student with stray bullet

Family of a University of South Carolina student paralyzed with a stray bullet nearly two years ago say they are thankful her shooter was sentenced to 40 total years in prison on Monday.

A state circuit judge sentenced Michael Juan Smith on Monday, shortly after a jury found him guilty of attempted murder and four separate gun charges. Prosecutors accused Smith of firing at rival gang members in Columbia’s Five Points bar district back in October 2013. A bullet struck then 19-year-old Martha Childress as she waited for a taxi nearby. The bullet paralyzed Childress from the waist down.

Childress did not wish to speak with reporters after the trial, instead her uncle Jim Carpenter acted as the family’s spokesman. “The family wanted me to express our deep gratitude to the people in the solicitor’s office, to the investigators, to the law enforcement, everybody who had a part in the successful prosecution,” he said. “We appreciate the way the trial was run. We appreciate the efforts of the jurors. We’re pleased with the verdict, of course, and we’re pleased with the sentence.”

Smith had testified in his own defense, saying he heard gunshots and feared for his life before he opening fire. His attorneys also pointed to a flash that briefly appeared on business surveillance video, which they said was another gun firing. But prosecutors accused Smith of changing his story on what happened that night and said there was no evidence anyone other than Smith had used a gun.

Circuit Judge Robert Hood sentenced Smith to 30 years for the attempted murder charge, and a pair of consecutive five year sentences on the weapons-related charges. Smith is already serving a 10-year federal sentence for possessing a gun as a previously-convicted felon. The two years he has already served will count towards his total sentence.

SC State officials optimistic after reaching critical number of new students

Image: SC State University

Image: SC State University

Freshman students at South Carolina State University arrived on campus Wednesday as the school prepares for a new year. And school officials were relieved to see each and every one of them.

That’s because the estimated 746 freshmen were critical for the school to meet its enrollment prediction of 2,650 total students. While those projections are often a formality at other schools, for SC State it was vital to reach that target. That’s because 2,650 was the exact number of students the school thought it needed to create its first balanced budget in years. Trustees had been worried just two months ago that they could see as few as 2,100 students this fall.

“We’ve been working tirelessly, diligently, to get 2,650,” Interim President W. Franklin Evans told WLTX-TV. “On Monday, we found out we had 2,649. But by the end of the day, that number had gone up. So we’re excited.”

Enrollment at South Carolina State steadily declined as the school entered a financial tailspin the past five years, dropping from more than 4,300 students as recently as 2011. That steady decline made growing budget deficits even worse as school leaders could not depend on additional tuition to pay off rising debts.

SC State’s board of trustees approved $19.1 million in cuts in June, including dozens of layoffs and the elimination of some programs, but believe they are now close to eliminating the school’s massive budget deficit. State financial officials have previously pledged $4.5 million to help the school with overdue bills this upcoming budget year, which is part of $12 million in total emergency aid approved by the Joint Bond Review Committee and the Budget and Control Board last year.

Evans said the school took several steps, most notably setting aside another $1 million in need-based scholarship money, to convince nearly 600 more students to enroll.

Classes will start on August 18.