Category Archives: Opinion

Opinion pieces by students, faculty, and staff.

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A Matter of Perspective

Veterans Day, Nov. 11. A time when we make special note of the sacrifices made by the members of the armed forces of our country. When I was a kid the date was called Armistice Day, because the World War I ended at 11 minutes past 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month. It seems a bit contrived to us now, but back then it was to drill into the minds of all involved the precise date of the armistice. I can’t tell you the exact date or time of the endings of World War II in Europe, known now as VE Day (Victory in Europe) or of the War in the Pacific, VJ Day (Victory over Japan). I recall that they were in 1945, and I even remember where I was when the radio broadcast each of those two momentous events.

But there have been some interesting changes over time in how we know about such things. During WWI all photographs were in black and white. Movies were silent and made with hand-cranked cameras. The films had to be taken back to a lab for processing and were then eventually shown in the newest entertainment venues, the cinemas. Radio broadcasting didn’t exist, let alone television.

By WWII, radio was widely available; local stations did live shows and shut down at around 11:00 p.m. with the national anthem. Short-wave radio made it possible for an entirely new form of journalism to be invented. Edward R. Murrow was a prime pioneer, giving live broadcasts of war action as it was happening. His newscasts began with the signature line: “Hello, America. This is London calling.” Before long reporters were being embedded with the troops both in Europe and in the Pacific, actually going in with invasion forces in places as hostile as Guadalcanal and the Philippines. Cinematography equipment and techniques had improved so that color and sound would be incorporated into films shown in home movie theaters, and the folks at home could feel a sort of participation. Broadcast reports were still limited primarily to the three radio networks, NBC, ABC and CBS. MovieTone News prepared the films seen in the theaters.

Now it is almost 70 years since then, and the news is transmitted via satellite as it occurs and on a spectrum of broadcast TV networks including cable, many of which run 24 hours a day. Casualties are reported on a day-to-day basis and with detailed accuracy impossible three quarters of a century ago. But the result of the reporting of those casualty reports is that the public has become much more sensitive to the numbers of killed and wounded American troops.

In the almost 14 years of the conflict in Afghanistan, there have been 2,144 military deaths. By contrast, during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, a campaign that lasted 40 days, U.S. casualties included 19,000 killed. Another contrast, traffic deaths in Texas, Florida and California in 2013 have each exceeded the total deaths in the entire Afghanistan campaign.

Until 1980, there was a recognition that people involved in conflicts sometimes developed problems that were mental in nature. The condition was usually called “shell shock.” It was often viewed by military leaders as weakness on the part of the person exhibiting its symptoms, up to the point when on August 3, 1943, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton slapped a soldier who was hospitalized for psychoneurosis, accusing him of cowardice. Now the condition is given the formal title of PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it is becoming more widely

recognized. It is not merely something found among troops involved in firefights. It may be found in support personnel who never get anywhere near the actual combat zones. It may also be experienced in the families of deployed military personnel as they anxiously wait at home. So, this Veterans Day, and every day, please recognize that the freedoms we enjoy and take far too much for granted exist largely because of the services of our men and women in the military. Never miss an opportunity to say “Thank you for serving” to a service person in uniform, and to persons of mature years (that’s code for “old people”) who wear “Vietnam Vet” or other emblazoned clothing and headgear.

May God bless all our service people at home and away for making our freedom possible.

David Birley

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Letter to the Editor

Texts, automated voice messages and emails are the main features that Winthrop University uses to communicate hazardous and potentially dangerous situations to students, faculty and staff. I am sure we can all remember one instance where a WU alert awoke us either in the middle of the night or the early morning. Personally, I remember waking up to a phone call in the middle of night when a robbery took place at the CVS across the street from campus.

Even though some may have complained about being awoken by the phone call, it did not bother me at all because I felt safe; I felt that Campus Police was truly looking out for our safety. However, my opinion has completely changed due to the recent event of a young woman being raped on campus whose crime was simply walking back to her dorm room.

The night that this violation took place, all cell phones remained quiet and did not glow in the dark. There were no automated voice messages or text messages being sent out as students either slept or walked back to their dorm rooms, completely oblivious to the potential danger on campus.

Instead, students were informed about the assault the next day at approximately 11 a.m.. Besides being disgusted that such a horrendous crime occurred on campus, I was extremely disappointed in Winthrop University and Campus Police for failing every single student on campus and not putting our safety first.

A simple automated voice message or text message informing students that a dangerous situation on campus has happened and to stay in your area until further instructions would have been sufficient and would have made students feel safer on campus. Throughout my past three years at Winthrop, I have always been very aware of my surroundings on our ill-lit campus. However, as I walk to and from my evening classes, I now feel the constant need to continuously look around me, being aware of every single person around me, scanning to see if anyone looks as though he does not “belong” on campus.

It simply all comes down to this: it shouldn’t be this way. I shouldn’t have to feel as though I need to walk to my evening classes with a very thick textbook in my arms to use as protection if needed. My friends shouldn’t feel the need to carry pepper spray and wasp spray in their hands, and our parents should not have to worry about us walking alone on campus to the library, our rooms or our cars at 8 p.m. at night.

Unfortunately, this tragedy is not being addressed even though it has affected each and every single one of us. We live in a culture where a victim of rape becomes the one at fault. Now, every single female on campus has also become the victim, with our sense of safety ripped away from us and replaced with fear. What happened on campus was a tragedy, and campus police should be reassuring us that we are, in fact, safe by either increasing security on campus once the sun goes down or working to make campus better lit at night.

Perhaps CSL should hold a panel discussion between students and Winthrop police so they can hear firsthand what areas on campus we do not feel safe as well as our reasons. Instead, Winthrop University and Campus Police are simply brushing this violation under a rug, hoping it will not be mentioned again and forgotten. Next time that you are in class, remember the statistic that one out of every four women will be a victim of sexual assault. How many more assaults will have to happen before action will finally be taken?

Lauren Switzer

Senior class standing

Spanish major


Causation or not, bait bike program seems to work

On November 1 of last year, a Winthrop student athlete and his girlfriend were arrested for larceny of a bait bike after they took the bike and rode it down Scholars Walk. The bait bikes are equipped with GPS trackers that alert campus police when they are moved.

A controversy erupted last week when it was revealed that former president Jamie Comstock Williamson directed Chief of Police Frank Zebedis to advise city prosecutors against pursuing charges against the two students.

According to the Rock Hill Herald, Williamson claimed that she was directed by a member of the Board of Trustees to seek dropping of the charges, implicating Chairwoman Kathy Bigham.

We at the Johnsonian do not believe there is sufficient evidence at this time to take a stand on this issue. We will, however, as part of our committment to remain the watchdogs of the Winthrop community, keep an eye open as more details are revealed.

We would like to take this opportunity to comment on the university’s bait bike program.

Some at the newspaper argue that the program is tantamount to entrapment of students, since they are not actually causing any real loss of property and the bikes are left unlocked and unattended.

Others, however, believe that the program is an ethical and effective way to reduce bicycle theft. They claim that the bicycles are the property of the university, so a crime is still being committed. Furthermore, many students around campus leave their bikes unsecured, so the bait bikes blend in well. In other words, it’s not like the bait bikes alone are unlocked, with every paranoid Winthrop student locking up his or her bicycle. A simple survey of campus reveals that a large number of students do not secure their bikes.

Since the inception of the bait bike program three years ago, there have been only six bicycle thefts, compared to seventeen to twenty per  year before the start of the program, emails from Zebedis claim.

So, it would seem that proponents of the bait bike program have statistics on their side. It is almost to sharp of a decline in thefts for it to be coincidence.

Nationwide, USA Today reports that Winthrop has one of the most successful bait bike programs in the country.

Bicycle theft is a real problem on college campuses, where college students often don’t have the immediate funds to replace the stolen property. Winthrop is no different.

We will allow the Winthrop community to come to their own conclusions about the appropriateness of the program. For the time being, however, it seems that the program is having an effect.


Letter to the editor explains situation of older students

Dear Editor:

There is an age that most folks associate with attending college; it embraces the post-teen and twenty-something group. There are a few students here at Winthrop who have gained a little more maturity — possibly up to the border of thirty-something. For the most part, these are military service people who have completed their “hitches” and are now taking advantage of their VA benefits.

However, there is a third age segment — old folks. I don’t mean forty-somethings or fifty- somethings, I’m talking the over-sixty set. Not a lot of us are here, but we represent an amazing phenomenon in the halls of higher learning. Some of us are here to “complete” something we may have started years ago and want to finish up now.

And there is one more in this group — folks like me. When I was “of college age,” it wasn’t necessary to have a college degree for many occupations. Oh, of course the “professions” always required such validation — the doctors, lawyers, and engineers, for example. But for other pathways in life, no. There were apprenticeships. One could take what is now called an internship, and take advantage of OJT — on-the-job training — resulting with accreditation as an architect or some other art or craft.

Actually, I was hit with a double whammy. I graduated from high school in Canada with a diploma issued from the province that stated I had successfully meet the requirements of Grade 13 — considered to be “first year college equivalency.” The only problem was that I had the misfortune of doing so at age 16, and, while that isn’t uncommon today, back in 1950 the University of British Columbia decided that I was too young.

So, for the next 62 years, I studied in the “college of hard knocks.” One way or another I managed to cobble together sufficient funds to live, to get married, to have five kids and to  survive. I was alleged to have skills in a number of areas, with the principle one being photographic portraiture. I finally retired at age 77; then, when I learned that South Carolina would make it possible for me, being over age 60, to attend Winthrop, well, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Shortly thereafter, my child bride (she is 17 years my junior) decided to follow the same plan. So, here we are, a couple of old retired folks, degree seeking. “But,” you might wonder, “what’s the point?” Surely when I graduate I will be about 82 or 83 years old. Who’s going to hire me?

Folks, I’m not doing this to get a job. I’m doing it for two reasons alone: to prove to myself I can do it, and to prove to my kids, grandkids and greats that it can be done and is worth the effort.

So the next time you see some old coot limping along the Scholars Walk, consider this possibility: it may not be one of the professors — it might be someone like me proving that we can do it, and it’s worth it. See you in class!


Rock Hill


Examining both sides of Tillman renaming debate

In early October, two former Winthrop students argued that Tillman Hall should have its name changed; their reason being that Ben Tillman, the man who the building is named after, was a racist. The debate is facing some issues, however, since South Carolina law prevents a building named after a historic figure from being changed.

There is historic value in keeping the name; especially when we consider it in terms of the school’s founding. Ben Tillman played an important role in establishing Winthrop University by gathering state support. His influence on the school was so great that Tillman Hall once served as the university’s “main building.”

Winthrop is also not the only school with a Tillman Hall.  The Winthrop building is modeled after the Tillman Hall on the Clemson University campus, another South Carolina college that Ben Tillman had a role in establishing.

Additionally, Tillman Hall is probably not the only building on campus named after a racist.  While it’s true that Ben Tillman was very vocal with his white supremacist beliefs, it’s not surprising that he supported this ideology when we consider southern history.

The majority of white people who lived in this area prior to the Civil Rights Movement were likely racists. Buildings such as McLaurin and Margaret Nance could potentially be named after people who supported similar bigotry. This is only an assumption based on the culture of the south at that time.

That said, I can still see why these students want the building’s name to be changed.  Racism is a corrupt institution, and the fact that the school continues to honor a prejudiced statesman like Ben Tillman raises questions.

With his extreme views supporting white supremacy and lynching, what does his continued presence on the Winthrop campus say about the school’s history and culture?  What does it suggest about current racial attitudes in our area?

It’s no wonder that students are upset.

Unfortunately, the laws make it difficult to change the name.  Even though Ben Tillman comes from a dark period of the South’s history, he is still an important part of Winthrop’s history; and without some serious legislative changes, it seems that the name “Tillman Hall” is here to stay.

First African-American student argues against renaming Tillman

Dear Editor:

It has come to my attention that the Board of Trustees has been asked to rename Tillman Hall.

Also, I  recently learned that the auditorium in Tillman does not have a name.  Someone has suggested that it be named in honor of Dr. Bessie Moody-Lawrence. That would be a most deserving and fitting honor for the professor and legislator.

However, I am not in favor of renaming Tillman Hall. Removing Ben Tillman’s name will not erase the vestiges of his social and political views, which are still quite evident in American culture.

Today, they are covered by white paper (insidious ways of discriminating) rather than a white sheet.

Tillman was the first building I entered on Winthrop’s campus as the first Afro-American student.  Climbing those steps to get up to the auditorium to register was a march of triumph.

The first four women of color to matriculate at the college proved that segregated public schools and historically black colleges and universities provided a quality education on par with any other institutions of learning.

Winthrop University has one of the highest rates of diversity in the state educational system.  Let Tillman remain as a symbol of what can be accomplished when there is a concerted effort to provide excellent learning for all students without regard to race, color or creed.


Rock Hill