Pandemic did not stop Claflin in ’21-22, Warmack says
By: JAMIA BELLAMY and TZION LAWRENCE
Apr 27, 2022
President Warmack speaks at an April 12 session with Panther reporters.
A global pandemic did not stop the success of Claflin University, President Dwaun J. Warmack said.
“This year has been, in the midst of the pandemic, another successful year,” Warmack said as he opened a news conference with Mass Communications Department students on April 12. “A lot of great things are happening.”
Warmack said he is excited about all the new titles that Claflin as under its belt, including a U.S. News & World Report number 3 ranking in terms of graduation rate.
He noted Claflin continues to rank high among colleges and universities in the state, most recently landing in eighth among S.C. institutions in one ranking. That is ahead of Furman and College of Charleston.
“I’m extremely excited. God is faithful. We’re not taking for granted the favor that God has had. During this time, we have a lot of colleges, universities and businesses that are closing, a lot of folks who are furloughing and laying off, but we’re still in a growth mode,” Warmack said.
“God has been faithful to this institution during this time. So we want to be good shepherds over what we have, and we hold a responsibility to be able to do that for our community and for our students.”
Warmack said he goes all over the world and yet always is asked the question, “Claflin? What? What’s the name of that school? Where’s it located?” The school should be more widely known.
“No one tells the story better than the ones who are there,” Warmack said, stating further that students who attend the institution, especially mass communications students, should put out more content and stories about the things that make it the successful institution it is.
More people would know for themselves, and a big name could be made for the institution, as big and well-known as other great HBCU institutions such as Hampton and Howard universities. Claflin has surpassed a number of great institutions in rankings in many different areas in recent years.
Another key to spreading knowledge about Claflin and growing the institution is the success of the community in which the institution is located. In Claflin’s case, this is Orangeburg, a majority-minority occupant community that struggles with poverty and education.
Warmack said that when he arrived as president in 2019, he became committed to bettering Orangeburg. “It does no good to have a stellar, top-10 HBCU in the country … and our community is suffering in Orangeburg.”
Warmack said Claflin has continued to partner with the community, making necessary changes so the city can thrive. A community such as Orangeburg with not one but two HBCUs should not be struggling.
“I am committed to making Orangeburg a great place to live, work and play,” Warmack said.
Claflin has invested in the center for social justice in downtown Orangeburg to provide educational opportunities and will also be taking ownership of the largest building in downtown. Plans are unclear for the historic Kress building at this time.
Claflin also is involved in plans to revitalize Railroad Corner, including the push for an overpass from the universities to Railroad Corner, the area where Russell Street meets Boulevard and Magnolia.
Another help to the Orangeburg community and overall help to spread the Claflin name is the coming new three-story student center, filled with space for new opportunities and room to grow. The facility will have a movie theater with up-to-date movies, outdoor patios and seating, ballroom seating, student job opportunities and much more.
“We are glad to see the manifestation, what God has in store, and what this is going to do for Claflin and the community down the road,” Warmack said. It’s not a center just for Claflin but also for the community. It is expected to open in June 2023.
Inflation in the cost of construction and materials is affecting the cost of the student center, he said. The projected price has gone from $20 million to $26 million and likely will reach $28 million.
Warmack said he continues to prioritize paying for the student center. “My goal is to burn the mortgage on this when we cut the ribbon.”
On the COVID pandemic, the president said polices for the coming year are to be determined.
“We had a very successful strategy,” the past year with vaccination and mask policies. Other institutions looked at Claflin’s policies.
“We continue to monitor the science,” he said. The bottom line is the health of students.
Warmack has also acknowledged a grant from Getty Images to digitize the Claflin archives made up of images by noted civil rights photographer Cecil Williams. “We’re still on track for our timeline.”