In the latest example of the needless politicization of higher education in South Carolina, the board chairman of the Palmetto State’s government-run military college abruptly announced this week that he was stepping down under pressure from a freshman state senator.
Colonel Fred Price – who had served on the board of The Citadel since 2007 – announced his resignation (effective December 31, 2020) at a screening committee of state lawmakers in Columbia, S.C. on Wednesday. Price had been expected to make his case for another term on the Citadel board but instead stepped down – bowing to pressure from first-term GOP senator Stephen Goldfinch of Murrells Inlet, S.C.
As we reported yesterday, Goldfinch has been pressuring Price to step down for months – ostensibly over a dispute between the two Citadel graduates over the governance of the institution.
Among other concerns, Goldfinch (below) is upset over proposed changes to the school’s class structure aimed at reducing incidences of hazing on campus. Specifically, the 37-year-old lawmaker wants the school to preserve its long-standing tradition of keeping cadets with their companies during the entirety of their four years at the school.
(Click to view)
(Via: Columbia SC Photographer Travis Bell)
Price and others want to move cadets into new companies after their freshman (or “knob”) year on campus.
Most Citadel alumni are vehemently opposed to the move – which they have dubbed the “sophomore shuffle.”
Hazing has been an issue for years at the Citadel, and efforts to limit it have been part of a broader culture change on the campus in recent years.
Sources familiar with Goldfinch’s opposition to Price tell his objections went well beyond the “sophomore shuffle,” citing a September 2, 2020 letter that detailed multiple instances of alleged dishonesty on Price’s part.
“The chairman was an utter disaster,” one source supportive of Goldfinch’s actions told us.
After Price defied him, Goldfinch threatened to introduce legislation that would remove him from the board. Apparently that legislation drew sufficient support in the S.C. General Assembly to force Price’s hand.
“Today I reluctantly withdrew my name for consideration to serve another term on The Citadel’s board of visitors,” Price said in a statement. “I also resigned immediately as board chair and will step down as a member of the board December 31, 2020.”
It is unclear now whether Goldfinch will still file his bill – which would have limited terms on college and university boards in South Carolina to twelve years.
In the meantime, not everyone was impressed by the senator’s power play …
“This Goldfinch thing smells extremely inappropriate,” one observer noted in a message to our news outlet. “State senator doesn’t like a new rule at his alma mater so he uses political clout to oust its board chair? Aren’t there ethics rules against this kind of thing?”
Ethics rules? In South Carolina? LOL …
Actually, the real danger for the school involves accreditation. With its board chairman clearly resigning under political pressure, “El Cid” could now find itself on the receiving end of an investigation that could jeopardize its federal funding.
Frankly, the situation is eerily reminiscent of the undue influence exerted by S.C. governor Henry McMaster during the selection of Robert L. Caslen as president of The University of South Carolina last summer.
Our view? As we stated in our original treatment of this saga, “we do not care how The Citadel chooses to structure its classes” – nor do we have any real interest in who serves (or does not serve) on its board.
Our goal is to continue making the case for the immediate and permanent privatization of higher education in the Palmetto State … and beyond.
No more taxpayer-funded appropriations. No more tax breaks. No more federal guarantees of student loans.
“It is imperative government at all levels confine itself to core functions moving forward,” we noted yesterday.
And higher education is simply not a core function of government … particularly not the way it is done in South Carolina.
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