COLUMBIA – A crowd of Denmark Technical College supporters gathered on the steps of the Statehouse on Wednesday to oppose plans to close the institution and reopen it as an area trade school.
“The people of Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell counties deserve Denmark Technical College,” Interim President Dr. Christopher Hall told the crowd.
“We are here to talk about the real meaning of DTC. Denmark really counts. Denmark counts in the lives of everyone we touch. Because of the education that Denmark Tech provides, they are able to go out and have a better quality of life,” Hall said.
The rally attracted over 150 supporters, with many waving Denmark Technical College signs and wearing school paraphernalia. The group included students, faculty, alumni and other supporters who clapped, cheered and chanted “DTC!”
The House version of the state budget contains a proviso that would shut the college down temporarily and re-designate it as an area trade school. The Senate is still developing its version of the budget.
Hall said the college serves as a source of hope for the three counties it serves, plus its students, faculty and alumni.
“We’ve been serving this community for 72 years, and as long as I have anything to do with it, we’re going to continue to serve this community now and forever more,” Hall said.
Kevin Whitt, chairman of the Denmark Tech Area Commission, praised the commitment of those involved with the institution. The new commission members have only been in place for three months, he said.
Whitt said, “In that three months, the level of commitment from the faculty, from the staff, from the interim president has been nothing short of remarkable. The fact is this discussion about closure is based on inaccurate or incomplete facts.
“If we have the opportunity as the commission, we will work with the faculty and the staff and the students and the alumni to make this college what it needs to be, what it should be and what it will be in the future.”
Bamberg County Council Chairman Trent Kinard said that the budget proviso is a step backward.
“They keep talking about going to a trade school and we’ve been there. We want to go forward, not backward. We want to keep DTC. For too long, we’ve gone backward in Bamberg County and now it’s time to move forward,” Kinard said.
S.C. Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, said “This is not a black issue, it is not a white issue, it is a people issue.
“It is an access issue. We must bring about equity for all citizens in the state of South Carolina when it comes to access to education.”
Govan said the caucus supports the institution.
“That is why I stand here today with colleagues from the Legislative Black Caucus, because we stand with you,” Govan said.
“We must have a genuine concern and we must be the change agents. Because if not us, then who, and if not now, then when? So, I leave you with this challenge: Let us not allow our destiny to be in the hands of those who do not care, but instead those of us who have a passion,” Govan said.
Former state Rep. Bakari Sellers, a Denmark native and CNN commentator, detailed his support for the historically black college.
“Bamberg, Barnwell, Allendale and Hampton, they have just been forgotten about in the state of South Carolina. They have been forgotten about by this building behind us,” Sellers said, motioning to the Statehouse.
“They have been forgotten about by the halls of the U.S. Congress, they have been forgotten about by 1600 Pennsylvania, but what they cannot take away is our hope,” he said.
“They cannot take away our faith, they cannot take away all of the pride that we have and the products of those individuals who have graduated from this great institution. One thing I do know for sure is that Denmark Tech has a history of fighting for what is good, and fighting for what is right, and fighting for what is just,” Sellers said.