Editorial: first, they came for the journalists
Now that the South Carolina General Assembly, through a committee, is obligated to discuss and consider Laurens County Rep. Mike Pitts’ bill to establish The Responsible Journalism Registry, it is appropriate to consider this famous quote: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. -- Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) College and university presidents are “next.” Pitts has set into motion a measure that will divest the State of South Carolina of all its higher education obligations by July 1, 2026. That’s right, on that date, South Carolina will become known internationally as the state that supports not even one college or university. The University of South Carolina is jettisoned first. Followed by Clemson University, then the Medical University of South Carolina, The Citadel, South Carolina State University, Winthrop University, Lander University, Francis Marion University, the College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina University. Pitts’ proposed legislation, H. 4621 referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means on Jan. 12, places all these colleges and universities in direct competition with Presbyterian College. On their jettison dates, these institutions will become private colleges. No more state-supported colleges and universities. Except for technical schools, which inexplicably dodged Pitts’ intended bullet. The non-profit organization formed or designated for oversight of the University of South Carolina, for instance, takes on the obligation of all USC debt (except general obligation bonds). Board members of the University of South Carolina Non-Profit Organization personally assume the debt if the university fails to pay. The board members will be the most deeply pocketed of all South Carolinians - they will own a university, its football stadium, its sports teams and their branding, their Schools of Journalism, Nursing and Pharmacy, their theaters and art galleries, their Offices of Student Assistance, their LBGTQ alliances. No longer will South Carolina be in the education business. No longer will state legislators have a say in who coaches Gamecock football. Anybody who has tenure now, keeps tenure. Anybody who has state insurance now, keeps state insurance - the bill says - “unless and until changed or modified as provided by law.” Uh, oh. Now here it comes. All professors now working will no longer be eligible for the South Carolina Pension System, a debacle that is $17 billion in the red, once their eligibility is “modified as provided by law.” Transferring all the state-supported colleges and universities to not-for-profit organizations - hum, sounds a little like what the Greenville Health System administration wants to do to itself. Become non-profit, because that allows for more partnerships, more alliances with more states. More “covered lives” to satisfy the ever-growing greed of insurance companies. It’s not in Pitts’ bill, but the best thing to come out of this arrangement could be one non-profit managing two state colleges. The College of Charleston/Coastal Carolina University - why does South Carolina need two beach colleges? MUSC/The Citadel: a great training ground for military doctors. South Carolina State University, well, the best “management firm” for it might be Enron. Seriously, what Mike Pitts wants to do with this legislation is get South Carolina out of the higher education business. No more of those pesky lawsuits about students falling off a bridge. The state through one of its “owned” universities is no longer on the hook for that settlement. That university is private (after July 1, 2018). Non-profit - all the money it makes goes back into its programs. Every ticket sold by the football team goes into a fund that restocks the library. Every building is a private building, including the stadium - legislators have to buy their way with real, green money into the skyboxes, no more “special fund-raisers” to curry the favor of state lawmakers. No more lobbying. No more compliance - except with something called the State Fiscal Accountability Authority. No more research - because as all private college professors know, when you’re non-profit you actually have to teach - not write research papers, not “publish or perish,” not work shoulder to shoulder with the next 20-something hot-shot who has a cure for cancer. No, none of that. Just, cutting them loose. To flounder as they will. Noble and long-serving institutions - funded by the United Way. We can’t wait to read Pitts’ next proposed law.