As 2019 and the spring semester kicks off, things could not be better in Tigertown. Our football team demolished Alabama to become the first 15-0 team since President McKinley’s administration, Clemson alums dominate the worlds of football and politics, and the Gamecocks down in Columbia continue to be mired in mediocrity.
Clearly Clemson students care deeply about their Tigers. But Clemson does not care about you.
This is not to say that the Clemson Family doesn’t exist. On the contrary, the Clemson Family might be the most tight-knit, supportive college community there is. But the institution of Clemson does not reflect that bond, and one can see it in the policies put into place by administrators and their bureaucratic departments.
The Tiger Town Observer has already chronicled Clemson’s absurd harassment and free speech policies. Clemson is rated among the worst universities in the nation for free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Clemson’s harassment policy lists “jokes and other verbal conduct” as examples of forbidden conduct. And of course, when CUSG held an impeachment trial for VP Jaren Stewart centering around sexual harassment allegations (among others), the university sprung non-disclosure agreements on senators to ensure that any abuse or misconduct would never reach the public eye. While students tore each other apart, slinging accusations of racism one way and the silencing women’s voices the other way, the university stepped in solely to protect its reputation.
Clemson doesn’t have a great history of dealing with sexual misconduct allegations. Last April, Clemson settled a lawsuit with a student who was suspended over false rape accusations, even though he had text messages that showed the encounter was consensual. The case records were sealed to protect the student’s identity, but Clemson administrators never offered any defense or apology for what happened, publicly or when the TTO reached out to them for comment. The university remained silent, fearful that any acknowledgment of wrongdoing would harm its reputation, simply hoping the story would fade away.
Last fall, Clemson administrators put together an entirely new Student Organizations policy, with practically no input from Clemson students. It took a leaked document on the alleged eve of the policy’s vote (though administrators dispute the date of the vote) for students to be made aware that many organizations would see their funding slashed and groups would have to jump through frivolous hoops of mandatory leadership and diversity training to get those funds. After a heated town hall, administrators backed down on nearly every significant part of the policy in front of a student audience, aware that having their students revolt against the administration would harm Clemson’s reputation.
Are you noticing a pattern?
Clemson’s reputation is its everything. Clemson students are only important insofar as they are the university’s revenue source, and their needs or desires are only taken seriously by the administration when students make a scene. Clemson has folded to the student organizations and the Sikes Sit-In for precisely those reasons; Clemson has continued to ignore student complaints about parking for them as well.
Clemson cares about revenue and status only. When students let the university walk over them, their status takes no hit and their revenue goes up (any student being ripped off by parking will testify to the latter point). But if students start making a fuss, less prospective students start applying, hoping to avoid a college experience rife with student-admin conflict. When less students start applying, the quality of applicants goes down. When quality goes down, Clemson’s grades and test scores go down, and Clemson tumbles down the college rankings. And as status goes down, funding goes down, causing more students to apply elsewhere, causing quality to go down, and on and on the cycle goes.
This piece isn’t designed to rile up the student body or to pile-on the feckless administration. It is to serve as a warning to the Clemson Family, that every policy or administrative decision is not done with your interests at heart. They are done with the goal of ringing you for cash, or boosting the university’s status, or making sure that you don’t speak up too loudly, lest some newspaper hear you. Because if a newspaper hears you, Clemson’s status goes down, then funding goes down, then….