Tags: Education | south carolina state university | henry mcmaster | hcbu

SC Students Ask for New Graduation Speaker

Image: SC Students Ask for New Graduation Speaker
Gov. Henry McMaster (AP Images)

By    |   Friday, 05 May 2017 11:39 AM

Students at the South Carolina State University, a historically African American school, are spearheading a petition drive to get Gov. Henry McMaster replaced as this year's commencement speaker, charging that they can't relate to the veteran Republican politician.

"Graduating seniors as well as family and friends feel as though they are being short changed," reads the petition, signed by 194 students as of Friday morning.

"They feel as though this selection was not thought out thoroughly and seniors are requesting a NEW Speaker. Someone whom they can connect with."

The petitioners say they want a speaker who can more closely identify with black college students, and "uplift them and give them hope that after they receive their degree; letting them know anything is possible."

They add that McMaster is "definitely welcome on this campus, but maybe for another time or another event held in the future."

Many of those who signed the online petition — launched Thursday just hours after the university announced McMaster's upcoming appearance on May 12 — urged that he be replaced.

"A prominent SCSU alumni or influential African American should be empowering our [historically black colleges and university] graduates," one signer wrote.

Another stated: "How do you go from [popular African American comedian, actress] Sheryl Underwood to Henry McMaster, Republican Governor of South Carolina. In the times we are in, it does not seem ethical."

In tapping McMaster to address the 500 graduating seniors, college president James Clark said "His presence on campus further demonstrates his commitment of support, which he made to the university as lieutenant governor several years ago."

Elizabeth Mosely-Hawkins, S.C. State's director of public relations, told the Post and Courier newspaper that the university is aware of the petition and Clark is considering addressing the students' concerns.

McMaster's scheduled appearance at the black college is all the more awkward in that he controversially has been a member of a reportedly "all-white" country club for more than three decades.

The former state GOP chairman ascended to governor of the Palmetto State this year after former Gov. Nikki Haley was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by President Donald Trump.

A solid conservative, McMaster is also former state attorney general who launched a suit against the Affordable Care Act that was soon joined by his fellow attorneys general in more than 20 states.

Beaten for the GOP nomination for governor by Haley in 2010, he came back to win the state's second-highest office in 2014.

When McMaster became governor in January, former state legislator Bakari Sellers called for him to end his longtime membership in the Forest Lake Club in Columbia which Sellers said is exclusionary and "all-white."

A 1925 deed for The Forest Lake Club stipulates the property "shall be forever used, kept up and maintained exclusively as and for the purpose of a country club of white membership," according to The Guardian.

Sellers told the newspaper: "Those people who represent an entire state should not represent a segregated club. It's 2017."

And South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison told The State in January:

"Our incoming governor, to his shame, if he continues to be a member of a whites-only country club, will perpetuate the legacy of white supremacy in the state's networks of power and privilege."

McMaster has been a Forest Lake Club member for more than 32 years and has repeatedly refused calls to quit, according to The Guardian. The club has insisted it discriminates against nobody.

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Students at the South Carolina State University, a historically African American school, are spearheading a petition drive to get Gov. Henry McMaster replaced as this year's commencement speaker, charging that they can't relate to the veteran Republican...
south carolina state university, henry mcmaster, hcbu
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2017-39-05
Friday, 05 May 2017 11:39 AM
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