- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Oct. 30

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on a recent tragedy involving Claflin University students:

It was the best of times and the worst of times on Claflin University’s campus.

Days before, the university was stunned by the deaths of four students in a vehicle crash in Columbia. And another student was injured in the accident.

The Oct. 13 tragedy prompted an outpouring of grief and disbelief, with hundreds of students joining faculty, administration and others in packing the W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center on the day after the accident for a prayer service.

During that gathering, Claflin Student Government Association President Dominique Riggins spoke:

“At such a time as this, with the country facing what it’s facing, and hurricanes and the passing of fellow Panthers, it may seem as though all joy is gone and some may be feeling weak; but I just want to say as Nehemiah said, ‘The joy of the Lord is our strength’ and that if never before, now is the time to stretch down and pull in that strength of the joy of the Lord.

“I don’t want to frighten any of you, but I just want to remind you to remind others that you love them.

“Call back home and tell your mother that you love her. Your friends and those who you care about, let them know that you love them because you never know when will be the last time.”

President Henry N. Tisdale also offered words trying to help people cope, accept and reflect on the value of every day.

“It just reminds us all we are not promised tomorrow. Let us continue to draw together, especially in times like this.”

Tisdale told students to live every day with a purpose. “So if you’re waiting for tomorrow, why not do what you need to do today?”

And even as the campus remained in a state of mourning, the president and Claflin made good on his words about not losing precious days.

A week after the Columbia crash, Claflin went forward with an observance marking an achievement that signifies the university’s progress that will extend into the tomorrows for so many.

Claflin officials announced that the university exceeded the $100 million goal of the Imagine the Possibilities Capital Campaign launched five years ago. The grand total to date is $105,153,431.19.

“When we launched the public phase of the campaign in 2011, it was designed to reposition Claflin as one of the top teaching and research institutions in the nation. It was the most ambitious fundraising effort in the university’s history,” Tisdale said.

“We overcame a lot of obstacles, including a struggling economy, but we did it,” he said.

As a result of the campaign, Claflin supported numerous achievements and campus improvements such as:

-Doubling the number of endowed scholarships from 100 to more than 200.

-Endowing three professorships and one academic department chairmanship.

-Increased funding for scholarships for high-achieving high school seniors.

-Purchasing two nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers.

-Campus-wide Wi-Fi.

-Renovations of buildings.

-New chapel.

-Establishing the online program in 2014.

“We now have resources that will expand learning and research opportunities for Claflin’s globally engaged visionary students and faculty,” Tisdale said.

Such opportunities are what brought the four young scholars lost on Oct. 13 to the Orangeburg university - and the resources from the capital campaign will ensure that many can walk in their footsteps toward the quality higher education they were pursuing.

Online: http://thetandd.com/

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Oct. 31

The Post and Courier of Charleston on why Penn Center should be a national monument:

Penn Center, on St. Helena Island in Beaufort County, is one of the nation’s pre-eminent historical sites in the struggle for equal rights by black Americans. It deserves the recognition and protection that would be conferred upon it by being named a national monument.

Reps. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Mark Sanford, R-S.C., have jointly submitted legislation that would accomplish that, but time grows short for congressional passage.

Consequently, Rep. Clyburn will make an appeal to President Barack Obama, who has the authority to designate Penn Center a national monument under the federal Antiquities Act.

It would be an especially notable decision by the nation’s first black president, as he approaches the end of his final term in office.

The importance of the 50-acre site over a period spanning more than 150 years was recently detailed on our Commentary page by Richard Moe, formerly the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Penn was the nation’s first school for freed slaves, created after federal troops captured Beaufort in 1862 during the Civil War.

Its educational mission continued with literacy programs for the predominantly black population of the Sea Islands during Reconstruction, and its focus shifted to industrial training by the 20th century.

Penn Center also had a major role in the Civil Rights movement, as a place where its leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., could gather without interference to plan strategy to end segregation and achieve voting rights in the South.

Penn Center has already been designated as a National Historic District Landmark, which confers status but no resources.

And despite its historical importance, Penn Center has frequently had a tenuous existence. That situation was underscored again this month as the site sustained damage when Hurricane Matthew struck St. Helena.

If designated a national monument, Penn Center would become part of the National Park Service, though current operations at Penn Center, related to the preservation of Gullah culture, would continue uninterrupted.

Penn Center holds an important place in the nation’s history. Naming it a national monument would provide the permanent protection of the Park Service and ensure that its stirring and heroic story is heard by a much wider range of visitors in years hence.

Online: http://www.postandcourier.com/

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Nov. 1

The Aiken Standard on the trial of Michael Slager:

For at least the next couple of weeks, the eyes of the nation will be focused intently on South Carolina during the murder trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager.

Few need to be reminded of the racial underpinnings of the trial. Slager, who is white, is charged in the shooting death of Walter Scott, an African-American, as he ran following a traffic stop in April 2015. Slager faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.

The Slager murder trial is the latest in a wave of cases that have opened broader discussions of race relations in this country.

As we’ve noted before, South Carolina has been incredibly resilient in the wake of racially charged cases. Unlike such states as Missouri, Maryland or North Carolina, where officer-involved shootings triggered days of rioting, here in South Carolina we’ve held civil discussions. We’ve held marches. And we’ve prayed.

The circumstances associated Scott’s death have also opened broader discussions concerning accountability and transparency.

More and more police agencies are expediting efforts to equip police officers with body cameras. We’re seeing that locally with the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office and North Augusta Department of Public Safety.

In the Slager case, cellphone footage shot by a bystander is proving to be a pivotal piece of evidence. Had the footage been shot by police, given South Carolina’s mixed record on open government, we wonder whether the footage would’ve ever been released. And had the shooting not been recorded, it’s possible charges might never have been filed.

Body cams aren’t all about holding only police accountable. Officers of the law are equally susceptible to frivolous and false complaints from the people they detain. Our federal court system is chock full of these types of cases. Body cam footage helps protect s much as a bullet proof vest.

While stories about the Slager case will adorn the front pages of newspapers nationwide, we want to make sure the efforts of our sister newspaper, the Post and Courier of Charleston, don’t get overlooked.

During pretrial hearings recently, a Post and Courier reporter rightly objected when a judge ejected most members of the public from the courtroom without legal justification. What made the move more bizarre was the judge ejected many members of the public, but allowed some to remain.

Not long after the judge ordered everyone to vacate the courtroom and ordering attorneys to file motions under seal, the Post and Courier challenged the decision, resulting in the judge vacating his orders.

Here in South Carolina, all courts are presumed open. Sometimes judges forget this vital principle of our system of government. We applaud the Post and Courier for doing what’s right.

Online: http://www.aikenstandard.com/

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