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"Trust me" says Clemson

Not likely!

Patricia Jones

Clemson is one of the State's top universities and has a reputation of academic excellence. But its reputation for fiscal management, and integrity is looking soiled by the ambition to expand the school to satisfy the ego of its senior staff. We in Charleston are dealing with its insensitive plans to construct an unwanted building for the School of Architecture on a site that the community considers inappropriate. Arguably, there has been no precedent to the scale of public opposition to a new building in Charleston.

But the School of Architecture issue may be only a small blow to Clemson's fiscal and academic integrity. The revelations relating to steps taken by the President and staff to build a new Sport Arena and Heritage Museum, and to acquire a campus in North Charleston are more damaging. The university's senior staff clearly has taken steps and made commitments that would be opposed by the broader community and which run the risk of damaging the standing of the university, both academically and financially. This must sound an alarm for the Trustees.

We remind viewers that Clemson is a State university. It is funded by the State. Funds that are needed and which do not flow from tuition charges or gifts are paid for by the State of Carolina and out of our taxes.

The State describes Hunley intrigue
The State newspaper this week ran a 3-part series over the plans of Senator McConnell to create a museum for the Hunley, the Confederate submarine. In an attempt to achieve his ambition, he has drawn Clemson University as a partner to his plan. The cost of the museum and a new campus for Clemson of which the Hunley will be the centerpiece, has been estimated at close to $100 million. In a deal that involves the State (of SC), North Charleston and Clemson, Clemson has agreed to take over the running of the proposed museum. It is also to receive 82 acres of land, once part of the old Navy Base, on which to establish a Campus. This campus will cost $42 million to build. According to The State, the financial commitment of the University to the Hunley is virtually open ended. It was at least partly motivated to agree to the arrangement by the prospect of substantial future financing engineered by the Senator.

Funding already stretched by Sport Facility and Heritage Museum
The revelations about the Hunley and North Charleston campus follow by about a month or so those relating to plans to build a museum and sport facility on its main campus at Clemson. The cost of these latter projects is now expected to substantially exceed earlier estimates.

Financing for scholarships and endowments may suffer
A P & C article, dated April 26, 2006 and written by Larry Williams, suggests the entire West Zone Project and Heritage Museum venture was estimated in 2002 to cost $40 million and athletic director, Terry Don Phillips, hoped to avoid borrowing any money. Unfortunately things didn't turn out as anticipated. It was able to raise $15 million from a government bond issue. It raised the rest by borrowing, of which $15 million was from the school's booster club (IPTAY). The club's funds had been earmarked for life scholarships and endowments and were not intended for capital projects. We ask did donors realize their monies would be used to bail Clemson out from a costly endeavor?

Cost could be near $90 million
The P & C article states Tommy Bowden, a central figure in Clemson's capital campaign, is confident the sport and museum projects will be funded and completed, but he has no idea how much money will be needed. Our understanding of the P&C article is that by 2004 the anticipated cost of the sports facility had risen to $52 million, by 2005 it was $54 million and official estimates now have it rising to $70 million or $75 million. The initial plan called for 2,000 club seats. That's been reduced to 1,000. And that is just the Sports Facility. The cost of the Museum could now be pushing $15 million taking the total to $90 million.

"Government by Stealth"
The three part series in The State,, "Government by Stealth", by John Monk highlights the plans of Senator McConnell in his quest to build and finance a museum to house the Hunley. Senator Glenn McConnell wants the Hunley restored - at any price. We posted a condensed version of the reports on this site on May 15. Viewers may see the full report on The State's web site by pressing here and using Archives to search for "Government by Stealth".

But viewers may be interested in some extracts.

Clemson wanted in for many reasons according to the articles. For President James Barker, it's realizing his (President James Barker) dream of a major Charleston campus bought at nearly nothing, claims Joe Kolis, Clemson's director of Special Projects. It is probably the only thing happening at Clemson now that can get us in an hour-long special on National Geographic or Discovery Channel, he said.

"Clemson could pay for years"
Clemson will begin to pay an estimated $800,000 a year to preserve the Hunley. Clemson also will pay $3 million to fix up the Hunley's deteriorating lab. Clemson could pay for years since no one knows for certain how long preservation of the Confederate sub could take. The SC State Budget and Control Board will need to approve selling $10.3 million in state bonds to raise the money for the campus.

Secret Land Deal
Behind closed doors, Clemson, North Charleston and McConnell created a $35 million campus, much to the amazement of some state lawmakers including Governor Sanford. Governor Sanford is quoted as saying We have to define our higher-ed system as something other than a vision that grows by 'I can get some money out of this pot, some land out of this municipality, and therefore, I'm doing another campus over here. That approach is a very costly approach. Today, thanks to The State, we know that Clemson was well aware of the financial burden the Hunley would place on the school.

Where is Academic Freedom?
Under a contract recently signed by Clemson, McConnell retains tight control of the Hunley project. Clemson professors will have to get permission before they can talk to reporters or to scholars at other universities, according to the contract. McConnell and the Hunley Commission also can refuse to allow Clemson professors to publish scholarly papers about their academic work on the Hunley, according to the agreement. Senator McConnell declined comment on the article.

Academic freedom scholars were shocked that Clemson will let politicians censor professors. President Barker wasn't concerned and does not see prior clearance as a restriction to academic freedom, the article said.

More jobs. But how many?
Clemson projected 4,750 new jobs over 20 years with an annual payroll of up to $286 million for its new North Charleston campus. The projections were developed by Clemson using standard economic formulas. Clemson put forth the numbers despite internal documents that showed officials were wary. No outside group vetted the numbers.

Inflated job-projection numbers aren't new to Clemson. It overestimated in relation to its ICAR automotive research project in Greenville. At least one member of staff was wary about projections. Kolis wrote Jan Schach Clemson's Dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. Do not under any circumstances mention the number of jobs created. Ask Chris about the horror stories he is still suffering from the "20,000" jobs that ICAR will create. My strong suggestion is to completely forget about this argument….The numbers you quote will get out to the press and we'll have trouble".

Locating Architecture school in Ansonborough is not sensible
And of course we have the School of Architecture. Without any in depth or clear understanding of the impact a very large building would have on the adjacent properties or the neighborhood, Clemson and the City of Charleston made a deal - Clemson would buy two City-owned building lots for $1.00. Together, the lots would be the site of the new Architecture Center. No matter that windows of the property to the South would have to be bricked up, or all-night glare from the library would shine on B & B residents to the East, that parking would be non-existent or the structure would be totally out of scale with surrounding properties, Clemson was making its entrance into the lives of Ansonborough residents, whether it was welcome or not.

The Board of Architectural Review, a City appointed body, collectively approved the propose building with only one member opposed. But the hostile clamor of citizens and architects caused Clemson to return to the drawing board. We wait with obvious interest what Clemson now proposes. So must the State who is being asked to finance much of it.

Size falls as costs rise
The cost of the new school has been an ever-moving target. Back in 2002, the building was projected at 26,000 sq ft and to cost $6.5 million. It was to be financed by $4 million of State issued bonds and $2.5 million from private donors. In 2004, the cost had risen $7 million but the size of the proposed building had been cut to 22,000 sq ft. The State was to be asked to float bonds to raise $5.325 million of the $7 million cost.

The building plan presented to the B.A.R in 2005 was about 21,000 sq.ft. Based on a passing remark made by Rob Miller, the school's director, the size of the building to be presented at the B.A.R in June will be reduced further. So what exactly are the tax payers getting for their $4 million, $5.325 million or more?

We also ask how Trustees feel about accepting a $1 million gift from the Spaulding-Paolozzi Foundation. The Foundation's purpose has been clearly defined and does not include financing projects such as the School of Architecture. But it has on its board Mayor Riley, an avid proponent of the School.

"Trust me"
Trust me said Jan Schach, Dean of the Architecture College, to the members of Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association (HANA) at one of their neighborhood meetings.

That was before HANA discovered windows in the building to the south of the planned architecture center would be bricked in, that the area labeled "East Garden" was in fact a driveway, that parking would not be provided, that metal and wood working shops would be adjacent to a residential building, that provisions for trash containers had not been addressed, or that a wisteria vine was needed to make the proposed building "aesthetically appealing".

We have been told that the center will never have more than 50 students. Ever! That parking isn't a problem because bicycles will be used. Deliveries? Not to worry!

No way!
The actions of Clemson in recent months are hardly reasons why any citizen should put their trust in the integrity of Clemson. From a February 19, 2006 P & C article Governor Sanford writes that on the same day that Clemson approved fee increases that will cost some students up to $400 or more annually, it accepted the Hunley laboratory. We also note that it has been denying placement to deserving, qualified local students while out-of-state students are admitted as in-state, at the lower tuition rate. And in order to fund out-of-control costs of a Sports Facility, $15 million that the Clemson's booster club (ITAY) previously had ear marked for scholarships and endowments, will be loaned to help defray the cost.

No reason to waste further taxpayer monies
With an 82 acre campus in North Charleston, there is no reason to waste tax payers money on a facility in Charleston, that because of limited space will be inadequate before it is built, will be an intrusion into an historic neighborhood and will force Ansonborough to deal with an institution that has been less than honest with its residents and the community at large.

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