on on PC

So in response to the serious comments from yesterday’s flippant post, let me say this:  I know that Belk donated the statues and that PC didn’t actually spend money on them, but there has to be a point when the big guys here say, “Thank you so much Mr. Belk – you do amazing things for this school and we are so grateful for enabling us to provide quality education to quality students.  We really appreciate the art that you have donated to the campus, and we recognize the important of supporting the arts, however, we have much more crucial needs X, X, and X and we would like to be able to use the funds that may go to statues for those things so that we can better educate our students.”  I know no one wants to insult such a big donor, but really there are SO MANY RIDICULOUS statues on campus.  At first, it was kind of comical, but now each time I come back there are MORE RIDICULOUS statues, and I come back every year for the middle school conference.  I work for a church, which also does its share of fundraising, so I understand the need for money.  But we recently received donations for a bell tower.  We do not need a bell tower.  But we do have many other needs, so we called the donor, expressed our appreciation, shared our current needs, and asked if we could use the funds in that way, and she agreed.  viola.  And if Mr. Belk still insists on donating art, why not feature art that either 1) has anything to do with the campus and its ideals of faith and service or 2) the art of current students and alumni – at least that way it would mean something to the campus rather than be a point of mockery by students and the surrounding community.

But that is just one of many things I don’t understand about PC.  To its credit, the leaders have done some amazing things to improve the common areas of campus – the renovated/expanded library is actually not scary or smelly; the new Biology building is incredible; the renovated campus center is SO much better and more usable; the dorm lobbys are nicer and more welcoming.  But I still lift great complaints about the dorms.  We are here this week with 600+ middle school students (and a handful of high school students), and this is a great opportunity to show what a wonderful place PC is and that it should be on their list of potential colleges.  But then you house them in Georgia dorm.  One of our rooms has giant holes in the walls and ceiling tiles missing.  Our bathroom has rust all around the doors, and the cabinets are falling apart.  Not to mention how dirty it is.  I know that students share the blame in the condition of the dorms, but really?  The middle schoolers that came with us are less likely to come to PC after staying in Georgia for sure.

And since I’m on my soap box and talking about PC’s missed opportunities, let me say a word about the recent meeting of all of the SC presbteries.  In May, all five presbyteries gathered at PC for worship, tours of the college and Thornwell, and our regular Spring stated meetings (which they do every five years).  It is not easy to get all these people here, many have to travel much farther than they do for regular presbytery meetings, but I understand the reasons.  It’s great to gather as a larger part of the body of Christ.  It’s a great time to showcase two of the most important missions of  SC churches and presbyteries (Thornwell Home for Children and Presbyterian College), and since the college is continually trying to uphold it’s church-relatedness, it’s a big opportunity.  So what does PC do?   We have lunch after our meetings on Saturday in GDH.  They charge all the ministers and elders $8.  They serve us not-so-appetizing hot dogs, hamburgers, plain Lays chips, and watermelon – we couldn’t even finish it was so bad.  Really?  

But that’s just my soap box – I just really think PC is amazing – I had the best four years, I wouldn’t trade a second of my time here for anything.  So it makes me sad when opportunities are missed to really highlight what PC is really about. 

PS – yesterday’s post now includes a picture of the fairy in case you thought I was making it up.

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4 Responses

  1. Dorothy,

    Note: I make the comments below only because I’ve lodged these same complaints before, so I know where you’re coming from.

    First of all, I completely understand all of your complaints:

    1.) Yes, Georgia dorm is dirty. I know. I lived there. You should try living there when the Air Conditioning goes out in August.

    2.) Yes, the statues are ridiculous. I was one of the folks who helped organize against them (we have a ballet statue, and we don’t even HAVE a dance program!).

    Now, that’s having been said, there are some things that need to be explained:

    1.) Of COURSE administrators told Belk that they needed money for OTHER things when donated the statues. The people running PC are fully aware of what the school needs, and of course have made that clear. Belk is an extraordinarily kind and generous man, and I feel confident that PC admins could be honest with him. Still, that said…

    2.) PC – like most schools in the country – has, as mentioned, been hit hard by the recession. In fact, the incredibly small nature of PC – 1200 students in the middle of nowhere – means that it was hit harder than most. Thus, in order to cope with the massive budget cuts, PC administrators ALSO took HUGE cuts of their OWN salaries to make ends meet.

    But here’s the thing: PC administrators don’t actually have to do this. Technically, they could just up the price of tuition, cut financial aid, limit the number of incoming freshman for the next year, as several schools across the country have done. Heck, I’m at Harvard right now, and they had to undergo HUGE budget cuts this past year (and came seriously close – as reported by the New York Times – to cutting financial aid to the Divinity School).

    PC, however, has a long tradition of being a school that takes care of it’s students. This means that PC does things like give financial aid to 90% – yes, 90% – of it’s students. That’s unheard of, and it’s why so many people can afford to come to PC.

    So when a PC administrator looks at the money in front of them, they have a choice: they can either fix up a dorm that – while “disgusting” (in it’s defense, you should have seen Bailey Dorm my freshman year. It was worse than anything you see at Georgia) – is still actually BETTER than dorm facilities at many state schools, or they can take personal pay cuts and dip into PC’s endowment so that people who would have otherwise never had a chance at college can go to PC.

    And really, that’s what you’re seeing. It’s why you have the $8 meals at the presbytery meetings (I’m a member of Trinity Presbytery myself), why the dorms aren’t quite what they could be, and why you have ridiculous statues that are sometimes eyesores.

    But if you ask any PC student if they’d be willing to lose half their financial aid for a slightly nicer dorm or a sightly more attractive campus, they’re going to opt for the financial aid.

    Ultimately, it’s an issue of priorities in a tough times. Trust me, I certainly understand all of your complaints. I only voice the opinions above because I – along with many other students – spent most of my college career making those SAME complaints. Eventually, however, the conversation became candid enough that a lot of questions were answered, and it turns out that things aren’t exactly as easily fixed as one would imagine.

    On a totally unrelated note: Is Stuart Hill at the Middle School conference? If so, tell him I said hey!

    much love – haere e hoki,
    Jack Jenkins

  2. First of all Stuart was our music leader and did a fantastic job.

    I guess what it boils down to is that I disagree with the school’s priorities.

    I knew that the faculty and staff took pay cuts, but I’m not really impressed by that…so did all of my staff – it’s just how the times are. We could have further cut programs and mission giving, but we didn’t because we knew what the right thing to do was.

    And PC has already greatly increased tuition/board over the recent years – it is currently over $37,000, up from about $25,000 just 6-10 years ago. And the current FA brochure states that only 80% of students get financial aid. But I will say that I certainly appreciate the financial aid and scholarship.

    Also, in regards to Georgia – there are real cleanliness and maintenance issues that wouldn’t take much money to rectify, but it’s like they don’t care. For instance, in the four rooms our group stayed in, we had one room will three giant holes in the wall (like someone went at it with a sledge hammer) and 2 missing ceiling tiles. In one bathroom, the water would come out brown every few minutes. In the other bathroom, the doorknobs were covered with a black greasy substance, and the counters and floors were covered with condensation. (And when our youth compained about the dorms, we did tell them that it could be worse, that they could be in Bailey – we stayed there three years ago for the conference).

    And my comment on the price of the $8 meal was not the cost, but the quality of food we were served for that cost. It’s one thing to serve a bunch of middle schoolers hamburgers and hotdogs which they did, but why is that what you serve for the presbytery meeting. We actually had some decent food this week (better than years past anyway), so I don’t understand why they couldn’t do better for the presbytery meeting. They just missed an opportunity to make a good impression and the churches with whom their relationship is already on rocky ground.

    I’ll say it again, I think PC is a great college, but I think they are missing out on opportunities to highlight the school, enhance their church-relatedness and recruit future students.

  3. PC is a great place. I remember going there to visit when my older brother was a student in the mid 90’s. We would eat in GDH for Sunday lunch and actually enjoy it. A quarter of the lunch room back then was taken up by folks from the community, and you couldn’t get any nicer and more caring than the blue ladies. I’m glad I got to experience one year of the blue ladies myself before they renovated GDH and hired Sodexho, or whoever it was, to start running the place. The blue ladies were gone forever and it was never the same–cost cutting manuever apparently. Some of the finest professors at PC, members of the so called pantheon, were pretty much run off. And every year it seems that the college, despite its ongoing financial troubles since the early 2000’s, hires more and more provosts or deans of the statues or whatever else administrative position is deemed necessary. I recently heard the description, “Too many generals, not enough soldiers.”

    That being said, I agree that some amazing things have been done at PC in recent years. There’ll always be something to complain about, I guess. As a former athlete, I initially wasn’t in favor of moving to DI, but after talking with a couple of coaches and professors it seems the move was the right thing to do. I hope all the other things work out too. Maybe some of the generals will start cleaning up the dorms soon.

  4. As an outsider who is a fan of PC because of how many people I love who are graduates, it is difficult for me to understand how a place with $37,000 per year in expenses could have such poor dormitory space. Everything else about the campus is on par with many public and private schools, but I was horrified to discover Barrons is one of the “best” dorms. Not one of my middle schoolers said on the way home, “There was no a/c in the halls, but thank goodness I kept a smile on my face thinking about that fairy statue I passed today.”

    I had a kid graduate this year that was really close to going to PC for football, but ended up at Furman. One reason=living space. He is paying more money to go to Furman, because living space is that important to current kids. It is an unfair comparison due to football idolatry, but the nicest dorm at the University of Alabama when I graduated in 2000 is now considered the slums. At the time Alabama embarrassingly had more graduate students teaching classes than any school in the country. The solution by the administration was to build state of the art dorms–and I laughed at it as foolish. 9 years later, enrollment has grown from 20K to 28K and they are paying students to move off campus. Formerly Ivy league bound kids are finding their way to Tuscaloosa.

    All of that is to say as a Presbyterian pastor and as a friend many PC alumni, I want to encourage my own youth to consider it as an option. On paper and from anywhere on campus that is an easy sell, until a kid looks where they will spend over half their time–their dorm. If they are considering Alabama, Auburn, Davidson, Furman, Samford, or other popular places for my kids, it is not much of a contest–unless of course they have a fetish for giant copper dolls–then PC has a huge advantage.

    I miss you guys already. I hope the transition goes well at Dorchester. Peace.

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