President Pastides' letter regarding founding documents

February 3, 2014

The Honorable Lawrence K. Grooms
The Senate of South Carolina
Gressette Senate Building
P.O. Box 142 Columbia, SC 29202

Dear Senator Grooms,

Thank you for your recent letter of December 20, 2013 concerning SC statutes § 59-29-120, § 59-29-130, § 50-29-140 and § 59-29-150.

This issue was raised by a student almost one year ago. As a result, university faculty and legal staff have researched the language in these statutes, many of which were first adopted in 1924, in an effort to make their application modern and practical without impediment to a student's timely graduation.

It appears that an update of these statutes is necessary to strike the balance between compliance and application. The University of South Carolina is committed to working with members of the General Assembly on a favorable solution.

Allow me to provide an example, the provision in § 59-29-120 (A) prohibiting a school, college or university from issuing a certificate of graduation to an American citizen student unless satisfied that they are loyal to the United States is problematic. The ambiguity of this provision could lead to varying and subjective determination of a student's loyalty by each individual school, instructor or faculty member. This could potentially generate plaintiff lawsuits in the federal judicial system, the costs of which would ultimately be borne by the taxpayers.

Section § 59-29-130 requires "the instruction provided for in § 59-29-120 shall be given for at least one year of the high school, college and university grades, respectively." This statute would need to be updated to reflect the modern university academic calendar based on semesters, take into account high school AP credits or college transfer credits, exempt graduate students such as medical and law school students, and provide uniform criteria defining successful completion.

Without modernization, the strict application of Section § 59-29-130 would create an academic logjam, delaying a student's timely graduation and burdening the student and parent with additional tuition and costs.

§ 59-29-130 requires "The State Superintendent of Education shall make due arrangements for carrying out the provisions of §§ 59-29-120 and 59-29-130. For such purpose the State Superintendent shall prescribe suitable texts adapted to the needs of the high schools, universities and colleges for the instruction required under §§ 59-29-120 and 59-29-130." This statute is archaic and would need to be updated to conform to the current modern State governance and regulatory structure for compliance.

Please know that the University of South Carolina currently honors and teaches about the United States; its history, government, constitution and laws; in ways that best benefits modern undergraduate and graduate students exposure and understanding.

We estimate that about 60 percent of our first-time full-time students take one of three courses (others bring transferable AP credit from high school) in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers. These are Political Science 201, History 111, and History 112. To commemorate Constitution Day, an annual event is held for the entire student body to honor the anniversary of its adoption. Students are provided pocket Constitutions, a voter registration drive is conducted, and a complete reading of the Constitution is done, with prizes given in a constitutional knowledge contest.

Also, each Veterans Day the university and students promote and hold programs, events and ceremonies on campus honoring the service and sacrifice of our nation's veterans. These events are attended by students, faculty, staff and the general public. And I am sure you are familiar with the popular half-time salute to our veterans held during a home football game each November.

As for other state research institutions, four-year comprehensives and technical colleges, the Commission on Higher Education may be able to provide information on compliance.

Let me pledge to you, USC is committed to working with the General Assembly on a statutory update and favorable solution.

Thank you for your leadership and continued support.


Harris Pastides