On December 2, the Executive Committee of AAUP met with CCU President Mike Benson for the second time in the fall 2021 semester. The agenda included a number of pressing concerns, such as the anti-tenure Bill H 4522 in the South Carolina General Assembly, as well as current and planned mitigation efforts against the COVID-19 virus.
President Benson was fully aware of efforts by some lawmakers in Columbia to abolish tenure for South Carolina faculty (Bill H 4522). He noted that he had done preliminary work to identify key supporters of the bill. He added that he hoped to engage these lawmakers in dialogue, in coordination with presidents of several other universities in our state, including UofSC and Clemson. President Benson noted that this is an approach that has proven successful in the past, adding that simply informing lawmakers of the reality of university operations tends to go a long way in situations like this. President Benson was also aware of efforts by some South Carolina lawmakers to censor discussions of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the classroom. He argued in favor of a student-led approach against attempts to censor discussions in the classroom and spoke in favor of taking a dialogue-based approach in this effort, just like in the case of H 4522.
The AAUP-CCU delegation also brought to the president’s attention concerns by faculty about upcoming changes in mitigation measures against the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. President Benson stressed that the plan to stop requiring the use of masks indoors after December 13 of this year was the result of a compromise between parties wishing to repeal mask requirements much earlier, and parties wishing to prolong them for an extended period of time. He added that efforts to encourage vaccination and masks will continue into spring 2022, with additional rewards based on funding that is still available.
Additionally, the AAUP-CCU delegation revisited the issue of lack of faculty consultation that marked early efforts to create the Spadoni College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education in 2020. Further, it stressed the importance of consulting faculty in discussions on the creation of yet another new college at CCU, as well as departments and faculty in existing colleges. The president was given a number of relevant statements of concern by anonymous faculty in a number of departments. He agreed on the importance of consulting faculty and made a point that he would make sure they would be included going forward.
The meeting included a discussion of plans to develop the area adjacent to University Blvd. and HWY 544 with a number of facilitates that will fulfil the needs of CCU faculty. There was also a discussion of efforts by the new Vice President for Human Resources, Thomas Koczara, to reduce the volume of paperwork needed for daily tasks at CCU. Further meetings between AAUP-CCU and the Office of the President will be held in 2022.