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South Carolina is home to more tire workers than you’d think

Editor’s note: Contact info for this story is Kathryn Duggan, 781-561-5127, dugganke@email.sc.edu.

Stories, photos and videos provided by University of South Carolina journalism students are available to the state’s news publications and websites. We ask that bylines be retained and, when possible, clips be provided for student portfolios. The mailing address is Dr. Deborah Gump, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. 29208.

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By Kathryn Duggan
USC School of Journalism

South Carolina native Darius Rucker may not have realized it when he covered the song Wagon Wheel, but his home state has kept the wheels of industry rolling, gaining a national reputation for employing tire builders.

Tire building, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines as operating machinery to build tires, is the “most unique” job in South Carolina, which is home to 11.8 times more tire builders than expected, based on national averages, according to a report by The PEW Charitable Trusts released Monday.

The Pew report arrived at its findings by comparing the number of people in a given occupation per capita to the national average.

South Carolina employs more people who make tires than any other state, which translates to 2,860 of the 17,570 tire builders nationwide, according to a 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

The number of jobs in the tire business will continue to grow when a new tire manufacturing plant is built in Chester County. According to a press release from Giti Tire, the plant is expected to create 1,700 jobs in the next 10 years.

Greenville serves as a tire-building hub for South Carolina, with a number of tire manufacturing companies. Greenville is also home to the world’s first manufacturing plant to build airless radial tires, which don’t go flat, which Michelin opened in November 2014.

Many tires built in South Carolina can be found beyond the state’s roads.

South Carolina ranked No. 1 in the United States in tire exports for the fourth consecutive year, representing roughly 30 percent of tires exported from the United States according to a press release from the S.C. Department of Commerce.

So next time Wagon Wheel comes on the radio, remember that when it comes to tires, South Carolina is leaving the rest of the country in the dust.

File photo, courtesy of The Greenville News.

File photo, courtesy of The Greenville News.

 

Other unexpected jobs …
… based on the national average

  • Washington, D.C., had 120.5 times more political scientists (3,370) than would be expected.
  • Indiana had 6.4 times more boilermakers (2,190).
  • Florida had 4.9 times more athletes and sports competitors (3,860).
  • Colorado had 9.7 times more atmospheric and space scientists (1,800).
  • Texas had 6.8 times more petroleum engineers (19,660).
  • Missouri had 3.7 times more psychiatric technicians (4,930).
  • Hawaii had 12.8 times more dancers (670).
  • Oregon had 40.2 times more logging workers (1,390).
  • Nevada had 32 times more gaming supervisors (6,990).
  • Alaska had 58.2 times more mining machine operators (390).
  • New York had 6.3 times more fashion designers (7,180).

For more states and their special jobs, check out the PEW graphic.

“RIP Leonard Nimoy” by Stuart Neiman

"RIP Leonard Nimoy" by Stuart Neiman

“RIP Leonard Nimoy” by Stuart Neiman

“Speaker’s Ears” from The Times and Democrat

"Speaker's Ears" from The Times and Democrat

“Speaker’s Ears” from The Times and Democrat

“On The Run” from The Times and Democrat

"On The Run" from The Times and Democrat

“On The Run” from The Times and Democrat

“It’ll Pass” from The Times and Democrat

"It'll Pass" from The Times and Democrat

“It’ll Pass” from The Times and Democrat

FOI BILLS: S.C. legislators ask the question: How public is public information?

Editor’s note: Contact info for this story is Rebecca Johnson, 803-320-0284, john2658@email.sc.edu.

Stories, photos and videos provided by University of South Carolina journalism students are available to the state’s news publications and websites. We ask that bylines be retained and, when possible, clips be provided for student portfolios. The mailing address is Dr. Deborah Gump, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. 29208.

With FOI-BILL-BREAKDOWN, a closer look at the five FOI bills, by Kathryn Duggan.

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By Rebecca Johnson
USC School of Journalism

Leonard Riley Jr. knows his First Amendment rights, and his rights to public information, and he knows when they’ve been violated.

Dissatisfied with the management policies at the Medical University of South Carolina, Riley and other activists organized a silent protest of the university’s board of trustees meetings last fall. He said they had intended to go to every meeting until their complaints were acknowledged.

But at their second appearance, the trustees abruptly decided that the previous protest had been unruly and distracting. The protesters were provided just five seats and prohibited from displaying their signs, an action that Riley considered a violation of their freedom of speech.

“If a public meeting is happening, we have a right to be there,” he said this week. “This was a violation of my rights under the Constitution of the United States.”

The restrictions didn’t last long, and Riley, chair of the Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment, said the protests will continue until the board gives them an audience.

Riley’s experience is just one example of an attempt to infringe upon South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act. The FOI Act outlines citizens’ access to public information controlled by state agencies and legislators.

After three S.C. Supreme Court decisions last year weakened the FOI Act, state lawmakers have introduced five bills this session intended to strengthen and clarify state laws.

“We need to open up the secrets of agencies and local governments to public scrutiny,” said John Crangle, chair of the state’s chapter of Common Cause, a citizen’s lobby for democracy reform. “That’s what we need in South Carolina.”

If passed, the bills would designate an office of FOI review; lift legislator’s exemption from FOI; require an agenda for public meetings; and disclose cause of death from autopsy reports.

Patricia O’Connor, chair of the South Carolina Press Association’s FOI committee and a journalism professor at Coastal Carolina University, said the bills could “set a tone for further strengthening of open government and the FOI bill in South Carolina.”

Although not as long-standing as FOI laws in other states, O’Connor said, South Carolina’s FOI Act is in the middle of the pack in ease and efficiency of obtaining public information.

Crangle, a retired attorney, lobbyist and political science professor at Limestone College, still speaks incredulously of charges he received after requesting information over a decade ago.

In 1991, he was charged $580 for the time it took the athletic director at Lexington School District One to gather information, which he said amounted to $25 an hour.

Crangle recognizes the same holes in the law now as he did then. He pointed out what he calls a “compliance problem” in government, in which citizens are overcharged for information and get their information too late to be of any use.

Crangle asked, “Where do you go if the government agency doesn’t comply?” He then added, “There’s this attitude that the less the public knows, the better.”

Rep. Weston Newton, R-Beaufort and a sponsor of the bills in the House, said that in South Carolina, a culture has developed around the idea that “decisions were made by a select few, and everyone else just heard about it after.” The FOI bills, he said, would “reduce and remove obstacles to those seeking compliance from the government.”

“It’s meant to promote the notion that the public’s business should be done in public,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a special set of rules for members of the General Assembly.”

But not all of the proposed legislation is supported by every watchdog organization.

Ashley Landess, president of the South Carolina Policy Council, said the public should be wary of the wording in some of these laws. Throughout the years of fighting for government transparency, Landess said, the council has become attuned to how legislators “tinker with language” in their laws.

Landess cited House bill 3191, which would create the Office of Freedom of Information Act Review to settle FOI disputes, allowing complainants to bypass a lengthier suit in Circuit Court. The bill would also limit request waiting periods and costs. It was sent to the Senate Feb. 19

She said the bill includes “retaliatory and punitive measures against citizens” to dissuade anyone from seeking information. She also pointed out that the administrative review board is not an independent entity, but another government office.

She cites Section 30-4-100: “… A public body may file a request for hearing with the Office of Freedom of Information Act Review pursuant to Section 1-23-665 to seek relief from unduly burdensome, overly broad, or otherwise improper requests.”

She said the loosely defined terms make room for legislators to justify many reasons to not produce the requested information, but also to “punish” anyone who asks for information by allowing legislators to require the citizen to show up for a hearing.

“We can no longer afford to ignore legislation that keeps being introduced that hurts the public,” Landess said. “Just the fact that they’re proposing this is worrisome.”

Not all legislators support all the bills, either.

House bill 3190, which would eliminate the legislative exemption from the FOI, has been sent back to the House Judiciary Subcommittee.

Newton said the bill raised questions about the extent of the legislator’s role as a public official. Legislators said there needs to be a clear definition for the capacity in which they are considered a public official verses a public citizen. When it was written, Newton said, the existing legislation couldn’t account for developing technology, such as emails and texts.

Landress said there should be no loophole for legislators. “Whenever they start carving out exemptions from state law, we need to be suspicious,” she said. “There should be no exception to the FOIA.”

Landress thinks the new legislation still doesn’t address the main issue. “Nothing that we see addresses the fundamental problem in this state, that public information is hard to get and is not readily available,” she sad. “Public information shouldn’t be something we have to search for.”

She added: “There should be no need for us to FOIA anything,”

 

 

 

 

 

FOI-BILL-BREAKDOWN: A closer look at the 5 FOI bills in the State House

Editor’s note: Contact info for this story is Kathryn Duggan, 781-561-5127, dugganke@email.sc.edu

Stories, photos and videos provided by University of South Carolina journalism students are available to the state’s news publications and websites. We ask that bylines be retained and, when possible, clips be provided for student portfolios. The mailing address is Dr. Deborah Gump, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. 29208.

With FOI-BILLS, an overview of FOI bills in the State House, by Rebecca Johnson.

By Kathryn Duggan
USC School of Journalism

Senate bills

Disclosing cause of death (S. 10): Currently in South Carolina, autopsy reports are inaccessible to the public. The bill would allow cause of death to be disclosed under FOI laws.

  • The information gathered from the autopsy report cannot be used for commercial or financial gain or in a way that exploits the cause of death. This does not apply, however, when the information is delivered to the public in a news report.
  • A law enforcement or public safety agency could apply to the court to prevent disclosure of the report, and provide proof that the report would harm the agency for one or more reasons.
  • The cause of death report must include the deceased’s name, the deceased’s date of birth, the location of the deceased’s death, the date of the deceased’s death and the cause and manner of the deceased’s death.
  • Under this bill, the coroner, deputy coroner, medical examiner or deputy medical examiner must complete and sign a cause of death report no later than 72 hours after the completion of the final cause of death report.

Status:

  • Introduced in the Senate on Jan. 13, 2015
  • Passed into the House on Feb. 10, 2015
  • Now in the House Committee on Judiciary

Requiring agendas for public meetings (S. 11): The bill requires a public body to provide an agenda for all regularly scheduled meetings no later than 24 hours before the meeting, except by a two-thirds vote of the body.

  • The only circumstance under which an item can be added to the agenda later than 24 hours before the meeting is with a two-thirds vote of the public body in a public session.
  • Any news media may request notification of the times, dates, places and agenda of all public meetings.

Status:

  • Introduced in the Senate on Jan. 13, 2015
  • Passed into the House on Feb. 4, 2015
  • Now the House Committee on Judiciary

House bills

Eliminating legislative exemption to disclosure (H. 3190): Under current FOI laws, legislators are not required to disclose certain records that are protected under specific exemptions. The bill would allow public disclosure of any documents, correspondence and working papers of an individual public official.

  • Any written or electronic correspondence from an individual member of the public to a public official would remain exempt, but any written or electronic response from the public official would be accessible.

Status:

  • Introduced in the House on Jan. 13, 2015
  • Now in the House Committee on Judiciary

Creating an Office of Freedom of Information Act Review (H. 3191): An Office of Freedom of Information Act Review would be set up within the Administrative Law Court.

  • Chief judge of the Administrative Law Court would serve as the director.
  • Hearing officers would rule whether records are subject to disclosure under FOI laws.
    • If they find that the records are exempt from FOI, the case will be ruled a “finding of good faith” on behalf of the public body or official.
    • In a case that determines the records should be disclosed, a written order must state what information must be disclosed and within what time frame.
    • A public body also has the opportunity to request a hearing in the case of an improper request.
  • Cost: The public body is allowed to charge a fee to produce the records. The fee can’t exceed the cost of search and retrieval of the records or the hourly salary of the lowest paid employee with the capability to perform the request. An additional copy fee may be charged, but it can’t exceed the commercial rate for the copying process and does not apply to records provided electronically.
  • Waiting period:
    • The bill shortens the waiting time for a public body to respond to an FOI request from 15 business days to 10. If the request is granted, the public body then has to produce the records within 30 calendar days from the date the request was granted.
    • If the requested record is more than two years old, the public body has 20 days to respond to the request, and if granted, it must produce the record within 35 days.
    • In a situation where a public body does not respond to the request within the required time constraint, the request is considered approved.

Status:

  • Introduced in the House on Jan. 13, 2015
  • Passed into the Senate on Feb. 24, 2015
  • Now in the Senate Committee on Judiciary

Requiring agendas for public meetings (H.3192): The bill calls for the same requirements as S. 11, but it contains a caveat that the two-thirds vote to add an item to the agenda applies only if the public body makes a finding “that an emergency exists if the item is not added to the agenda.”

  • The bill applies to regular, called, special or rescheduled meetings. It does not include emergency meetings of public bodies.

Status:

  • Introduced in the House on Jan. 13, 2015
  • Passed into the Senate on Feb. 18, 2015
  • Now in the Senate Committee on Judiciary

Jay Lucas and Fixing Education in SC – While I Breathe I Hope

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

by Phil Noble

Regular readers of this space know that I have basically two articles of faith about South Carolina — and this week they both came together in one joyous moment.

The first is, “If we don’t fix education in South Carolina, nothing else really matters.” After the physical safety of our citizens, nothing is more important than this, nothing. Literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of times – in speeches, in columns and in everyday conversations – this has been my mantra for so long that I don’t even know where the maxim came from. I doubt if it was original with me; and I doubt that anyone has said it more than me.

The second is, “While I breathe I hope.” This is our state motto, but even more than that, it’s my personal motto. It is the most optimistic, aspirational, determined, and resolute phrase that I know. It describes who we are as South Carolinians. In a state that has had such enormous triumphs as well as such horrid tragedies, these five simple words embody the spirit of our state and our people.

This week, these two came together, and it may have been the beginning of what could be the most important events in this state’s history for a generation, maybe longer.

The House Education Reform Task Force had their first meeting this week to begin to formulate a legislative response to the SC Supreme Court’s decision in the Abbeville case. For those who have not been paying attention, the Abbeville case was a suit brought 21 years ago by students in the 33 poorest school districts to compel the state to provide at least the “minimally adequate” standard of education that the State Supreme has found they are entitled to. A few months ago, the Court ruled in favor of the districts but did not say what reforms were needed or when they had to be implemented.

For those of us who have watched the SC Legislature do the wrong things for the wrong reasons to benefit the wrong people for such a long time – there was some sense that the same old forces of politics as usual would have their way again and nothing meaningful would happen.

All that changed when the new Speaker of the House, Jay Lucas, opened the week with a little bit of family history and a bold challenge. What he said was so striking, so personal and so bold, that his statement deserves to be repeated at length:

My grandfather had a sixth grade education and worked at the mill…Years later, my father chose a different path, becoming the first member of his family to receive a high school diploma…He believed in the power of education so strongly he enlisted in the Army and fought in Korea, specifically to receive GI benefits to make his dream of going to college a reality. The day I was born, my father – at 25 years old – received a college diploma. This lesson was not lost on me… Now, here I stand as the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, a single generation removed from my grandfather, who never imagined how much four years of public high school would mean to his son and grandson.

And then, he gave an astounding charge to the members of the Task Force: “Hacking away at ineffective policy will only yield minimally adequate results… Instead, focus on irrigating the desert. Focus on achieving what others think cannot be achieved…”

And then to top even this, he set them a goal: to make our public schools “competitive on a national scale.”

From minimally adequate to nationally competitive – think about that for a minute.

I was shocked – I still am.

Lucas is not just some insignificant, powerless legislator but the Speaker of the House. And here he was in his first significant action calling on the Legislature – especially his fellow Republicans who hold all the power – to go beyond merely fixing “minimally adequate” to creating a nationally competitive public education system.

I don’t think I have ever met Jay Lucas and I know that I’ve never had a serious conversation with him about education or anything else. But I’d like to. And if I do get to talk with him, I’ll first congratulate him and then tell him that what he said, and the goal that he has set, are perhaps the most important words and goals heard in the state capital in a generation… and that’s coming from a committed Democrat.

If he really believes what he says, and there is no reason to doubt him, and he’s actually able to deliver – he will go down as the greatest Speaker in the history of South Carolina. And I genuinely hope he does.

Because if we don’t fix education in South Carolina, nothing else really matters.

And while I breathe I hope.

Phil Noble is a businessman from Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform. phil@scnewdemocrats.org   www.SCNewDemocrat.org.

Op-Ed: S.C. Already Expanded Medicaid

By Barton Swaim

“As long as I am the governor of South Carolina,” Gov. Nikki Haley vowed in 2013, “we will not expand Medicaid on President Obama’s watch.” And again: “With your help,” she said in her 2014 State of the State address, “we emphatically said ‘No’ to the central component of ObamaCare, the expansion of a broken Medicaid program that is already cannibalizing our budget, and would completely destroy it in the years to come.”

Well, yes. Medicaid – a health care program in which states receive matching funds from the federal government – is cannibalizing the state budget and will destroy it soon enough. The governor is right about that.

But South Carolina hasn’t said “No,” emphatically or otherwise, to expanding Medicaid. As Statehouse Report detailed in an excellent report two weeks ago, and as the South Carolina Policy Council (for which I work) has been contending for more than two years, Medicaid expansion has happened, is happening and will keep happening. Read the rest of this entry »

Binge-watchers, all rise for our new commander in chief, President Francis J. Underwood

Editor’s note: The Friday in the lead refers to tomorrow, Feb. 27.

Contact info for this story is Damian Dominguez, 864-634-7548, domingdm92@gmail.com.

Stories, photos and videos provided by University of South Carolina journalism students are available to the state’s news publications and websites. We ask that bylines be retained and, when possible, clips be provided for student portfolios. The mailing address is Dr. Deborah Gump, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. 29208.

***

By Damian Dominguez
USC School of Journalism

It’s 3 a.m. Friday, and President Francis J. Underwood is ready to deliver his version of a fireside chat.

As TV and laptop screens crackle worldwide, waiting for the third season of House of Cards to premiere on Netflix, Carter DeGennaro and his friends are about to bunker down inside a Columbia apartment for nearly 10 hours. The senior exercise science major at the University of South Carolina is stocked up. He’s got his energy drinks, his snacks and his friends.

There’s no better way to binge-watch the misadventures of the Underwood family.

Though he expects them to get through only half of the new season before breaking for Friday’s classes, he’s stoked to binge-watch the Netflix original series for as long as he can keep his eyes open.

“We’ll try and keep each other awake by yelling or throwing things at those that are dozing off,” he said.

His plan for staying awake will be the energy drinks they plan to drink through the night.

Plans are the theme of the Underwood presidency, but those who know what a good plan is might raise an eyebrow at DeGennaro’s.

One of the many problems with his plan, said nutritionist Yvonne Lucas, is that the various ingredients in energy drinks “absolutely overwhelm your autonomic nervous system.” It isn’t so much the caffeine, she said, but the sugar and other ingredients that can cause problems sleeping, digesting food and even thinking clearly.

Energy drinks aren’t the only things DeGennaro and all the other binge-watchers across the world will have to be wary of. Sleep deprivation can be almost as disorienting and dangerous as a night of heavy drinking, said Tim Fultz, technical director at South Carolina Sleep Medicine in Summerville.

Spending the night doing anything except getting a full night’s rest can actually make it harder to remember things and learn new material, he said. That means DeGennaro may need a refresher the next morning on just how much trouble Underwood got into throughout the season.

“I actually watch House of Cards, and I quite like it, but I’m not going to stay up to watch it tonight, and I definitely won’t watch it all at once,” Fultz said.

With their eyes glued to the screen, another challenge he and his friends will face is exactly that: their eyes.

Dr. Marvin Efron, an optometrist with Eye Associates of Cayce & West Columbia, said that extended time spent watching a single thing can cause eyestrain, which may damage one’s sight. The real problem is that the eyes are focused on one point for too long, he said, and normally eyes are used to focusing on various distances.

An easy solution, he said, is to take a short break for a couple of minutes whenever the eyes start to feel tense and strained.

The medical warnings are no deterrent to DeGennaro, who was determined to binge-watch anyways.

But Efron does have some good news for binge-watchers. Throw out the stories about the dangers of sitting too close to the TV. Viewers can sit as close as they want, so long as they don’t do it for very long.

So feel free to lean in as the Underwood family delivers one tense moment after another.

 

 

Photo illustration by Damian Dominguez.

An Underwood fan gets a refresher on season one of House of Cards. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carter DeGennaro, a senior exercise science major at the University of South Carolina, says he doesn’t care what the risks might be, he just wants to enjoy the new season of House of Cards with his friends. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

Carter DeGennaro, a senior exercise science major at the University of South Carolina, says he doesn’t care what the risks might be, he just wants to enjoy the new season of House of Cards with his friends. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a more complete list of all upcoming shows, visit Rotten Tomatoes.

For a more complete list of all upcoming shows, visit Rotten Tomatoes.

Chief Justice Jean Toal’s Last Address to the General Assembly

Chief Justice Jean Toal's Last Address to the General Assembly. Photo by Sam Holland

Chief Justice Jean Toal’s Last Address to the General Assembly. Photo by Sam Holland

Campus gun bills, including one in S.C., raise questions about sexual assault

Editor’s note: Contact info for this story is Damian Dominguez, 864-634-7548, domingdm92@gmail.com.

Stories, photos and videos provided by University of South Carolina journalism students are available to the state’s news publications and websites. We ask that bylines be retained and, when possible, clips be provided for student portfolios. The mailing address is Dr. Deborah Gump, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. 29208.

***

By Damian Dominguez
USC School of Journalism

It’s a matter of defense.

That’s what lawmakers in the 10 states, including South Carolina, pushing bills to legalize firearms on college campuses say. As Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore put it succinctly, if not diplomatically: “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. These sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”

However, the premise that guns will protect women from sexual assault is, according to experts in the field, wrong.

South Carolina Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, is sponsoring such a bill, saying, “I believe the more guns we have the safer we are.” The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault cannot be counted among the bill’s supporters.

When Rebecca Williams-Agee, director of prevention and education, was asked whether the coalition supported the use of firearms as a defensive measure, she quickly said: “Absolutely not.”

In sexual assault cases, she said, guns are more likely to be taken and used against the victim than for their defense. Considering that 77 percent of victims last year knew the perpetrator, she said, defense becomes a challenging issue.

“We’re talking about someone that the victim already knows, someone they are familiar with,” she said.

Such familiarity makes the process of reacting to an assault slower and more difficult than people often realize, she said. The victim may not feel threatened or have any worry of being assaulted to begin with, she said, because of the high likelihood of them knowing the perpetrator.

Corey Ingram, a mental health therapist and health educator at USC’s Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention center, said that education programs are a more viable solution than defensive measures alone.

“Without an education, how is a person supposed to use whatever risk reduction is available to them?” he said. “When you have risk reduction programs alone, that leads to victim-blaming.”

Awareness of one’s environment and any potential dangers is still important in preventing any possible assaults, Ingram said. “You can’t legislate behavior,” he said, so self-defense courses and situational awareness are important.

Though the numbers vary annually, in 2013 Coastal Carolina had the highest number of sex offenses out of South Carolina’s public four-year colleges, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

Capt. Thomas Mezzapelle, an administrator at Coastal Carolina’s Department of Public Safety, said that the usual safety tips are what are most effective at preventing sexual assaults on campuses. Traveling in a group and familiarizing oneself with available police call boxes are important steps, he said.

Carrying a gun, however, isn’t a safety measure he recommends. “We, in general, don’t like the idea of guns on campus,” he said. ”It’s one more thing we’ll have to face that we can’t control.”

He said that Bright’s bill could fundamentally change the way law enforcement interacts with the public on college campuses. “If the bill passes, we’ll have to consider that anyone we deal with is armed,” he said.

Bright’s bill is making its way through the Senate; it was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee in mid-January. Regardless of whether it passes, Williams-Agee offered one simple piece of advice on how to avoid committing sexual assault.

“Don’t rape.”

Corey Ingram, a mental health therapist and health educator at USC, says that he hopes a national dialogue about consent and sexual assault will continue to grow. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

Corey Ingram, a mental health therapist and health educator at University of South Carolina, says that he hopes a national dialogue about consent and sexual assault will continue to grow. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corey Ingram, a mental health therapist and health educator at USC, says that he hopes a national dialogue about consent and sexual assault will continue to grow. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

Many campuses have extensive networks of emergency call boxes, such as this one at the University of South Carolina, says Capt. Tom Mezzapelle at Coastal Carolina’s Department of Public Safety. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A three year look at sexual assaults on South Carolina campuses. The law distinguishes between forcible and non-forcible sex offenses, which are incest and statutory rape.

A three-year look at sexual offenses on South Carolina campuses. The law distinguishes between forcible and non-forcible sex offenses, which are incest and statutory rape.

App hopes to turn Waffle House into next FedEx. Yes, you read that right.

Editor’s note: Contact info for this story is Damian Dominguez, 864-634-7548, domingdm92@gmail.com

Stories, photos and videos provided by University of South Carolina journalism students are available to the state’s news publications and websites. We ask that bylines be retained and, when possible, clips be provided for student portfolios. The mailing address is Dr. Deborah Gump, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. 29208.

***

By Damian Dominguez
USC School of Journalism

Andy Pfitzenmair sat, a stack of books under his left hand and a waffle pinched under the fork in his right. As he scarfed down waffles and hash browns at the Waffle House in the Five Points neighborhood of  Columbia, there was no way he could have known that he was sitting in one of the next big hubs for the sharing economy.

Consider an Uber-like service that allows strangers to meet and carry packages for customers, usually for less money than FedEx or UPS would charge.

“But wait – this has something to do with Waffle House?” Pfitzenmair asked.

Waffle House has partnered with start-up app Roadie to provide a  delivery service in which drivers who sign up with Roadie can take an item from one Waffle House and meet up with the item’s recipient at the Waffle House nearest its final destination.

Roadie has been active for about a month, but it has been downloaded over 7,500 times. The app operates a lot like the popular Uber taxi app, allowing people to sign up as drivers by submitting a photo of themselves and their driver’s license. Then the driver can pick up packages that others want to send and take them to their destination.

The goal is that drivers who are already traveling somewhere can simply carry the package with them.

The team behind Roadie is working on its background checking system to vet drivers, and it will be paying drivers a portion of the cost to ship. Roadie aims to keep rates lower than other package delivery companies to remain competitive.

Pfitzenmair’s initial confusion was replaced quickly by excitement. He said he’d gladly both use the service and sign up as a driver. “It’s neat to help people when you barely have to lift a finger,” he said.

The pairing made sense, he said, given the number of Waffle Houses across the country and the fact that customers tend to be regulars.

He dines at Waffle House about once every other week. “I’m a long time patron,” he said. “Ten years.”

He said that the appeal of the app format is the ability to network with people who are willing to ship a package. “It makes asking for help much easier,” he said.

He wasn’t alone in his initial bafflement at the announcement. A Columbia Waffle House employee at the Bluff Road location said she hadn’t heard about the deal yet. “That’s crazy,” she said.

She said she wasn’t convinced, and she questioned the safety of handing over a package to a Roadie driver.

“You don’t know who that is,” she said.

Rodie users can use the app to meet up and hand off the package to be delivered.

Roadie users can use the app to meet up and hand off the package to be delivered.

Waffle House will offer free waffles to anyone who downloads the app and provide a free drink to delivery drivers. Creative Commons copyright/rpavich

Waffle House will offer free waffles to anyone who downloads the app and provide a free drink to delivery drivers. Creative Commons copyright/rpavich

WaffleHouseRoadieP1

Andy Pfitzenmaier, a Waffle House regular, hadn’t heard about Roadie or its partnership with the restaurant chain, but he said he’s excited to start using it. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaker’s education task force takes its first steps towards solving the puzzle

Editor’s note: Contact info for this story is Damian Dominguez, 864-634-7548, domingdm92@gmail.com

Stories, photos and videos provided by University of South Carolina journalism students are available to the state’s news publications and websites. We ask that bylines be retained and, when possible, clips be provided for student portfolios. The mailing address is Dr. Deborah Gump, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. 29208.

***

By Damian Dominguez
USC School of Journalism

Last place. That’s where the National Assessment of Educational Progress test results place South Carolina. Fifty-first, behind the District of Columbia, which came in at 22.

The NAEP isn’t the only organization ranking South Carolina’s education below the average. Other education watchdog organizations have been critical of South Carolina for years. Add in the 21-year-old lawsuit of Abbeville County School District v. The State of South Carolina, and the scene is set for Speaker of the House Jay Lucas to appoint a team to address education reform.

That team, formally named the House Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force, met on Monday to hear from education reform advocates on what to do for South Carolina.

As Terry Peterson, national chair of the Afterschool Alliance and member of the task force put it, it’s time for South Carolina to stop treating the symptoms and try finding a cure.

“You can’t just take a bite of the apple any more. You kind of have to take the whole apple,” he said.

Education is by no means a monolithic issue, Peterson said, and that’s what the task force was organized to address. The 17 educators, representatives and industry advocates in the task force were asked by Lucas to think outside of the box and provide innovative solutions. The task force includes five representatives from the plaintiffs in the ongoing Abbeville lawsuit.

Chief among the issues the speaker took with the current state of education was the acceptance of a minimally adequate standard of education.

“I disagree strongly, wholeheartedly, with this standard because I do not believe South Carolina believes in minimums,” Lucas said.

Former governor and education advocate Richard Riley agreed with rising above the current standard, but he said there is still a lot of ground to cover.

“We have slipped backwards as this case has moved through the courts for more than 20 years,” he said. “Twenty-one years is a long time to wait for a solution.”

Riley’s suggestions of having community learning centers, increasing project-based learning to give students hands-on work experience, and increasing the standards of rigor for classes across the board were all suggestions he made to the task force. His solutions involved overcoming what he called the devastating effects of low expectations.

Two professors presented their perspectives to the task force as well.

Michael Rebell, a professor of law at Columbia University, praised South Carolina for providing the groundwork for more open communication on education between the legislative and judiciary branches, a trait he said was shared by many states attempting to improve their educational systems.

Rebell addressed a few concerns over the cost of providing equitable funding. “The aim is not to equalize the funding; it’s to make sure each student gets what has been determined to be an adequate education,” he said.

USC law professor Derek Black said that if the state’s legislature doesn’t recognize a minimally adequate education as a constitutional right rather than a political issue, then the court case Abbeville School District v. State of South Carolina might go on for decades more.

David Longshore, retired superintendent of Orangeburg County Consolidated School District 3, said that he’s been involved in that lawsuit since it began and that professor Black is right.

“It’s my hope that’s not going to happen,” Longshore said, adding that the legislature is making a commitment to resolve the lawsuit’s grievances now rather than drag it out any further.

Wanda Andrews, the superintendent of Lee County School District who got her start as a Sumter educator, said that the size of a school district limits what it can provide, regardless of state funding.

“A smaller, rural district just can’t provide the same services as other larger ones can,” she said.

Two former state superintendents of education gave their perspectives as well. Barbara Nielsen, former State Superintendent of Education from 1991-1999, said to the task force that technology would allow for providing a 21st-century education to all students.

“Technology is the great equalizer. It is the key to our equity issue,” she said, adding that she advocates paying teachers based on a defined percentage of administrative cost per district.

Nielsen also said that having schools prepare students for the jobs available in South Carolina was essential. “We do have to ask ‘What skills do you need?’ – and they’re changing all the time because businesses are changing all the time,” she said.

Former superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, who left office in 2007, said her biggest issue was transportation.

“We have to make it our goal to make sure that no student spends more than 90 minutes on a bus,” she said.

She shared stories about districts where kindergarten students spend upwards of three hours on a bus, or another where special education students spend nearly two hours.

The task force will meet again in Dillon on March 23. For information about the task force or the upcoming meeting, contact Pierce McNair at 803-734-3053 or at piercemcnair@schouse.gov

Other Statistics

  • South Carolina hasn’t had a higher-than-the-national-average on any section of the NAEP since 2005.
  • Montana State University Billings’ Center for Applied Economic Research ranked South Carolina as 44th in the social impact of education.
  • South Carolina received a B on the report card given by the State Department of Education.
Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, (far left) is one of the five representatives from the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case Abbeville County School District v. The State of South  Carolina. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, (far left) is one of the five representatives from the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case Abbeville County School District v. The State of South
Carolina. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

Former Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum told the task force on Monday that without a state bond bill, rural schools in areas that draw less income from property taxes won’t be able to compete with schools in more populated areas. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

Former Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum told the task force on Monday that without a state bond bill, rural schools in areas that draw less income from property taxes won’t be able to compete with schools in more populated areas. Photo by Damian Dominguez.

“Irrelevant Rudi” by Stuart Neiman

"Irrelevant Rudi" by Stuart Neiman

“Irrelevant Rudi” by Stuart Neiman

My Brain on NASCAR: Sliced Bread: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Joey Logano during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Joey Logano during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

By Cathy Elliott

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s time to start taking Joey Logano seriously. After claiming the lead with nine laps remaining in the 2015 Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, Logano managed to survive an end-of-race caution and then held on to win NASCAR’s most famous and prestigious event.

When asked what went through his mind when he saw that late caution flag come out, Logano said, “Once you get over the fact that you’re about to throw up, you start figuring out how to win the race.”

I’m trying to recall whether I have ever heard Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson or the late Dale Earnhardt mention the possibility of cookie-tossing in regard to winning a race … nope. I loved it, though. It was honest and refreshing, the difference between merely another day at the office and “Holy cow, I just went to work and won the Daytona 500!”

It was also age appropriate. Logano isn’t the youngest-ever Daytona 500 champion – that title currently belongs to Trevor Bayne – but he comes close. He may look like a kid who could come knocking at your door one of these nights to pick your daughter up for the prom, but in fact he is 24 years old and a married man with nine NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins to his credit. He was a strong contender for the series title last year, winning five races and ultimately landing at number four in the year-end standings.

Sometimes NASCAR feels like a real-life combination of the movies Mean Girls and Animal House. Seasoned veterans eye newcomers with a combination of mistrust and misgiving: Does this newbie know what to do on the track? Will he (or she) be a help or a hindrance during races? Hey, let’s grab a toga and apply a little pressure and see what happens!

Sometimes the answer comes quickly; think back to the days when Jeff Gordon and his infamous bad mustache – does that thing have its own Twitter handle yet? – began to regularly accomplish the unbelievable (and unforgettable) feat of regularly beating the late Dale Earnhardt to the checkered flag. The man who would go on to win four series titles (so far) and become one of the most popular and successful drivers in stock car racing history had to run the gauntlet of NASCAR’s fraternal hazing program before being issued his racing-man card.

Gordon wasn’t accorded any respect just for showing up. He had to earn it.

The same holds true for Logano. He fell victim to early pressure when Tony Stewart’s unexpected  departure from Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the 2008 season put the still-teenaged Joey in the driver’s seat before he was fully prepared for fulltime Sprint Cup Series competition. Expectations and predictions ran the gamut from overnight sensation to rapid burnout. Things at JGR ultimately didn’t work out and in 2013 he made the move to Penske Racing, subsequently earning his first-ever spot in the championship Chase. He finished the season in eighth place.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that both NASCAR and Hollywood host their biggest events on the very same day. They weren’t the frontrunners going in, but two strong contenders carried the day as Joey Logano and Birdman soared to victory in their respective, and very hotly contested, races. It felt like a day when anything was possible.

We talk a lot about the changing face of NASCAR and what the sport’s future holds in store. If you’re the visual type and need to see what it looks like, sneak a peek at Joey Logano. He’s a scrapper.

He fell victim to some unfortunate hype early in his career, as he had been branded with the nickname “Sliced Bread” (as in “the greatest thing since …”). That’s not the most glamorous moniker, and he has pretty much managed to shed it as this point, but I like to look at it this way.

In order to properly slice a loaf of bread, you need sharp equipment, a keen eye and a steady hand. In NASCAR’s kitchen, if you use the right ingredients, the proper technique and make the cuts just right, at the end of the day you can end up in Victory Lane … and everyone else will just be toast.

Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough To Tame. Contact her at cathyelliott@hotmail.com.

“If At First” from The Times and Democrat

"If At First" from The Times and Democrat

“If At First” from The Times and Democrat

 

“Side Effects” from The Times and Democrat

"Side Effects" from The Times and Democrat

“Side Effects” from The Times and Democrat

“No Lie” from The Times and Democrat

"No Lie" from The Times and Democrat

“No Lie” from The Times and Democrat

Gov. Haley’s $29,000 Football Tickets and Higher Ed Reform

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

by Phil Noble

I love this state, I really do – and that’s why I get so frustrated when we can’t do the obvious right thing for stupid reasons. (Like, say, $29,000 worth of free football tickets — but more on that in a moment.)

It seems to happen a lot and the current prime example of this is how higher education in this state is run, or probably more accurately, not run.

S.C. State has been in the news lately but they are only the latest and best example of the need for a statewide governing body that effectively – and the key word is effectively – oversees higher education the state.

What we have now is the S.C. Commission on Higher Education and it’s just not working. There are some very competent and diligent folks on the Commission but the problem is they really don’t have much power to actually do anything.

Dr. Layton McCurdy was Dean of MUSC for 11 years and Chairman of the Higher Education Commission from 2005-08, and his comments in a recent column pretty much sum up the problem: “Still we do not have a coordinated system that emphasizes the value to the state rather the benefit to the individual institution… Rather we operate under the philosophy that states, ‘If you’ve got one, I want one.’”

Someone described what happens now as “policy by football tickets.” What this means is that the big schools like USC and Clemson have a huge alumni base that can be mobilized and they have high-paid lobbyists walking around the Statehouse lobby handing out football tickets to state decision makers. Unfortunately, this is a pretty good summary of what happens.

And in case you’re tempted to dismiss all this football stuff as “small potatoes,” just take a quick look at Gov. Nikki Haley’s latest ethics filings, where you’ll find that she declared more than $29,000 worth of Clemson football suites and tickets as gifts in 2014 alone.

Another big part of the problem is how the boards of the public colleges and universities are chosen. It’s done by the legislature, so if you want to be on a board you have to repeatedly go up to Columbia and convince enough legislators to vote for you. What you get is a bunch of folks hanging around the lobby looking for legislators like a pack of teenage boys with overactive hormones at the high school dance, looking to pounce on the next pretty girl that walks by.

Lots of people who would make great college trustees don’t want to go through the personal humiliation of the process and just won’t get involved. So, who you have getting chosen are people who have a high threshold for personal rejection, or who are the brother, sister, friend or barber or someone who knows someone who can call in a favor from some key legislators.

And once they get on the boards, most of them stay a long time – some for more than 40 years. So much for new ideas and fresh perspectives.

So what’s the answer? There is an obvious, proven solution – a board of regents – but it doesn’t have much chance of happening in South Carolina any time soon.

A board of regents has the responsibility to look at higher education based on the needs of the whole state and then has the teeth to enforce their policies. Today, 39 of the 50 states have some sort of board of regents. Though they go by lots of different names – curators, governors, overseers, regents, trustees, or something – they all have the same function of overseeing their state’s higher education system. Among those states where the board of regents seem to be doing an effective job are, you guessed it, Georgia and North Carolina.

The problem with such a straightforward, obvious solution is that no one in a position to make this needed change wants it to happen.

The legislators like the current system because they have to power to appoint the college and university boards, and they like having people (i.e. board candidates) hanging round kissing their ring (or some other body part), telling them how great they are. Plus, they get all the good tickets for the football games – or in the case of Gov. Haley, the football suites.

The big colleges and universities like the system because they have lots of their alumni in the legislature to look after them. Also, if they get in a jam, they can mobilize their alumni, as some alum is bound to be the crucial legislator’s fishing buddy, girlfriend or law partner.

A couple of years ago the presidents of USC, Clemson and MUSC were all lined up at a table in front of a state Senate committee and they were asked by Sen Gerald Malloy if they were going to at least talk about a board of regents…and they all three sat silently and did not say a word. One observer called it “the silence of the lambs.”

And this isn’t a partisan issue, as both fair minded Democrats and Republicans have pushed for a change. Mark Sanford at least talked a good game about reform but he never got anywhere, as the legislators didn’t much like him to start with and then Sanford got lost on the Appalachian Trail and that pretty much killed any chance of real reform.

So, there you have it: a big problem with an obvious solution that won’t ever happen because of petty politics and narrow interests – and football tickets.

By some measures, our state’s colleges and universities are sliding backwards, but who cares, right? The football teams are doing great… and Gov. Haley and the legislators are sitting right there on the 50 yard line cheering them on.

Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and is President of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group founded by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform. phil@scnewdemocrats.org   www.SCNewDemocrats.org