President eyes new student center, other progress

Nov 12, 2023

President Dwaun Warmack speaks to student reporters on Oct. 31. (Panther photo)


Construction on Claflin’s new student center should be substantially complete by Nov. 30,  President Dwaun J. Warmack said.

Located at Goff Avenue and Magnolia, the student  center will include a one-screen movie theater that will open Tuesday through Sunday, Warmack told Panther reporters on Oct. 31.  It will have 180 seats, including wheelchair-accessible seating.

The student center will serve the community as well as students, showing first-run movies, Warmack said. "(It will) provide something that the community does not have.”

There is to be a cost for the public and students at the theater, but Warmack said the expense will not be excessive. “We’re not trying to make money.”

The university is tentatively planning a soft grand opening for the student center on Christmas Day, the president said. If that happens, the movie “The Color Purple” will be shown in the theater.

The student center's official grand opening will not take place until students return in the spring semester.

Alongside the multipurpose theater, the center will also include:

• A ballroom

• Papa John's pizza

• Starbucks

• Qdoba

• Convenience store

For students interested in finding work, the student center will provide opportunities for jobs close to campus.

“For this building to be successful, there will be student workers to help us, and that was the vision from the beginning,” Warmack said.

 Dean of Students Dr. Arthur Doctor and Vice President for Student Development and Services Dr. Leroy Durant are to oversee the student hiring process. Positions will include:

• Movie theater

• Information desk

• Tech set-up

Student center financing is through fundraising and a 2% U.S. Department of Agriculture loan of $18.4 million for 40 years, Warmack said. The facility will cost more than the originally projected $40 million, largely because of rising costs in construction.

“You can’t predict COVID happening,” Warmack said of the increases.

The idea for the new student center was put into motion by former SGA President Kayla Hodges four years ago.

Warmack said Hodges recognized the lack of recreational opportunities for Claflin students and the surrounding community.

“You can create a vision, but you may not be there to see it through,” Warmack said of Hodges. “This is happening because a student four years ago had a bold vision.”

Warmack told reporters that he shares a similar vision when it comes to giving back to the Orangeburg community, saying the resources he and his family have are a blessing.

“We want to provide something that this community doesn’t have,” Warmack said of the student center. “I will not waver from my commitment to ensuring that Claflin is a beacon of light in this community.”

As the student center's completion date nears, a busier Goff Avenue becomes more and more an issue, Warmack said.

The segment of Goff from Magnolia to Clark would be closed to vehicle traffic under a plan put forward by Warmack and Claflin and backed by the city of Orangeburg.

The S.C. Department of Transportation ultimately must approve of the change since Goff is a state road.

Warmack said the area of Goff through the campus is “extremely unsafe.” Claflin is “trying to be part of the solution."

The responsibility for the outcome goes back to the state and city, Warmack said.

In addition to the student center, Claflin projects include a new biotechnology building and nursing facility.

With the support of 6th District Congressman James C. Clyburn, the funding for the biotech facility is coming from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. U.S. Sen Lindsey Graham was instrumental in getting funding for the nursing facility.

Warmack said, the “The delegation has been very supportive.”

The university also has plans for a 150-bed residential facility as part of the city of Orangeburg’s Railroad Corner revitalization. Railroad Corner is the area across the Southern Railways tracks at Russell and Magnolia.

Warmack said Claflin is prospering while some other institutions around the nation are not.

Despite the fact that COVID-19 was starting in 2019 — the year he took office — Warmack pushed ahead.

“We never could have imagined a global pandemic would hit. And in the mist of the global pandemic, we were able to not just survive as an institution, but thrive,” Warmack said.

Warmack said a five-year review will be conducted to record all of the changes.

“We are finalizing a five-year review document that will chronicle the work that has happened over the five years,” he said.

“We have increased our net assets over the past five years by over 100%,” he said. “We have increased our total assets as an institution by over 200%. We have increased our endowment by 100%.”

Enrollment is growing, Warmack said. The freshman class of 2027 is a superior group with a 3.69 GPA and 1200 average on the SAT.

Warmack spoke highly of the class of 2023, which began at Claflin in the same year he took office. They are very special, he said.

“The class of 2023 graduated with nine valedictorians all with a 4.0 GPA,” he said. “I'm biased because those are my babies. Those are the students that came in with me.”

Warmack said homecoming will again be a special week.

 “Safety is the No. 1 concern,” he said, urging students to “make wise decisions … be responsible.”


Ground was broken for the new student center in March 2022. (Special to The Panther)




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