February 26, 2010

The University of South Carolina; Where Business and Education Intersect

February 23, 2010: Harris Pastides, President of the University of South Carolina, addressed our club today, and shared with us the most recent updates from the University of South Carolina and his thoughts about where the institution is headed and how it effects leaders in business.

Just a year ago Pastides was quoted saying "it's the best of times, it's the worst of times" yesterday he laughed, saying "I don't know why I said the best of times". USC has experienced $75 million in cuts from state appropriations and there are more on the horizon, estimated to be another 20%. Reductions drop state funding to half of what it was just 20 months ago when Pastides became President, and only 10% of the entire budget is funded by the state. The University President quipped "in the beginning these institutions were state supported, then state assisted and soon they will just be state located". The frustration is evident and real as the institution struggles with the best way to cope with diminishing funds, and there are multiple schools of thought on how to proceed.

Pastides addressed the South Carolina Assembly seeking a compromise of sorts, offering to keep tuition as low as possible (especially for state residents) in exchange for a commitment to increase funding to a level comparable with other southern, state supported schools, when the economy recovers. No promises have been made. That being said USC remains open, research is under way and in the presidents words "the student are our pillar". Gamecocks raised $140,000 in a dance marathon for children's health, and thousands of dollars for Haiti hosting a battle of the bands competition, in addition to spirit and character the average SAT score for admission into the University of South Carolina Honors College is 1420. The school was named #32 in Top Value Education by Kiplingers, and would have been closer to the top; the schools holding the first, second, and third position boast tuitions of less than half of USC's and that is directly related to the large amount of state funds those institutions receive.

The circumstances above bring the University to a cross roads, even the trustees are divided on which way to proceed. Some believe that with less money from the state the school must do less. For example: if faculty cannot be replaced then fewer student should be admitted, another option increase tuition to offset the lack of state monies (calculations estimate that tuition would have to be increased 60% to make up the difference), or increase out of state admissions (leaving fewer spots for South Carolinians). The opposition says "don't do that", the University has been providing public education since 1805 before the states of New York or Massachusetts, yet we need more education. USC's eight campuses will educate 43,400 people this year, 40% if in state students attend Carolina, but still, only 25% of adults in our state have a college degree. Pastides agrees with the second group, and has allocated $1,000,000 from athletics to academics these funds will be used to aid dedicated students in paying tuition that would otherwise be forced to withdraw.

Pastides will remain focused on the total student and the total education. A profitable work place starts with an educated work force.

Reported by Elizabeth Wooten Burwell, Keyway Committee

February 17, 2010

Observations of a Deployer

February 16, 2010: Jim Geffert introduced our speaker, Col. Benjamin Wham II, who gave us an intimate soldier's eye view of what it is like to deploy to and live in Iraq and Afghanistan. A graduate of The Citadel, he holds a BS degree in Civil Engineering and is a part of team Charleston, a group of 7142 service personnel assigned to the Joint Base Charleston.

He has spent a tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan but told us primarily about his time in Iraq starting with the long journey by C-17 aircraft, which is not as nice as commercial coach, but at least you can stretch your legs. His base was located SE of Bagdad and had two airstrips. Seen from the air, it is a virtual tent city. The tents are comfortable but the temperature inside in the daytime is 140 degrees! Nearby are 4000 year old antiquities such as a pyramid, the house of Abraham and the nearby Euphrates River. Immediately next to a tent was the test firing range with an image of Saddam as the target.

The good part is the comradeship of those with whom you serve, and the visits from celebrities who often took the names of the troops back to the USA and called the families. The bad would be the heat and finding bats in your tent. The strange is living through a three day sand storm during which everything looks yellow and the sand gets in your hair, eyes and mouth. It also seemed strange to get water from a hand pumped 100 year old well.

One of their proud accomplishments was the renovation of a school and getting the children back to classes. But the danger remains, with the ever present chance of coming upon a roadside bomb, which can be hidden in anything,

Reported by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

February 12, 2010

Expand Your Mind with ACLU

February 9, 2010: Andy Brack introduced our speaker, Victoria Middleton from the ACLU. Andy mentioned that she was working on such issues at requiring all voters to have a photo ID to present at a voting station prior to their being able to cast a vote. The ACLU is very opposed to this.

Victoria began by asking the question: What does the ACLU stand for? Her response was that it stood for conserving principles underlying our democracy. She said that they want to expand a lively debate in SC. She spent 20 years overseas. She told the story about when she returned from serving in Finland and took her family on a tour of Washington, DC. While at the National Archives she saw the Declaration of Independence and noted what a strong and vital document it is.

She spoke of the rights of individuals, their speech, religion, and other freedoms. She spoke about the ACLU"s desire to maintain the rights of minorities of all kinds ... they defend issues or minorities such as: the Ku Klux Clan, Nazi's, Rush Limbaugh, Ollie North, and the Roman Catholic Church. They defend rights that are really important to all individuals.

The ACLU began defending conscientious objectors in WWII. On war and terror, they defend Habeas Corpus (can't indefinitely hold a suspect without charging them of a criminal offence). She cited many, many cases over the years that they have defended.

1987: ACLU vs. Rotary, re: inclusion of women in the club.
1993: Helping Shannon Faulkner in her attempt to become the first female cadet at the Citadel.

Currently, they are looking into the over-incarcerations of criminals (too many criminals for minimal crimes such as drug charges that she said should NOT require jail time). She said that too many children (under 17) are being sent to juvenile detention. She said that the ACLU is attempting to keep outside intruders from entering schools. She's concerned about the right to privacy in our state and the government's ability to store our personal data.

She told the story about her conversation with a 97 year old member of the ACLU, a former corporate counsel for TWA, asking him what his priorities were. He stated that there were two. 1. The First Amendment; 2. Women's reproductive freedom which he saw as an individual freedom that should not be taken away.

Local issue: Discrimination on race or sexual orientation for employment.

The question was asked: How does the ACLU decide to take a specific case? She cited several steps they take ranging from equality issues to privacy issues to personal freedom.

Submitted by Bill Christian, Keyway Committee

February 5, 2010


Feb. 2, 2010: Charleston School of Law Dean Andy Abrams linked the spirit of Rotary service to the kind of appreciation for public service that is being taught to the 660 students at the law school.

During an entertaining presentation, Abrams said Rotary's missions of service to others, promoting ethical behavior, and instilling goodwill and peace were almost a mirror of the law school's mission. Among the six-year-old law school's goals are:

- To teach students of high moral character and unquestioned personal integrity through a careful and refined study program;
- To teach the practice of law as a profession, having as its chief aim providing public service;
- To teach the law as a means of providing relief for those who suffer because they are helpless, weak, outnumbered, or because they are victims of prejudice;
- To teach the law as a means of alleviating human misery and human suffering;

To teach the law as a means of making possible the continued processes of manufacture and commerce that bring realization to the twin goals of prosperity and peace in the world; "Our goal is to impact the lives of our students with a high-quality legal education so they can, in turn, impact their communities," he said. "What makes us unique is this mission of service above self - the very words you use."

In the last five years, students have contributed more than 100,000 hours of public service through pro bono and externship programs locally and across the nation, Abrams said. Every student is required to give back 30 hours of free legal service before they can graduate. Some examples of public service by students: working on maritime issues in New York, an annual program in which eight students travel in the summer to work at the Ugandan Supreme Court to promote democratic institutions; a mediation program with the county school district; and helping Crisis Ministries.

Abrams said the quality of the education that students were receiving was unparalleled. Last summer, for example, 91 percent of first-time takers of the SC Bar who had been full-time students passed the exam, he noted. "That is competitive with any law school anywhere."

Abrams also said the school worked hard to provide job opportunities for students after they finished law school. More than 90 percent of graduates are able to get employment with the help of the school, he said.

Abrams ended his talk with a "preemptive strike" about a question he always hears - "Aren't there too many lawyers?" He said that since there were more people in South Carolina than lawyers, "we're going to keep at it until you each have one of your own!"

More: http://www.charlestonlaw.edu

Submitted by Andy Brack, Keyway Committee