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… publishes this sort of opinion piece, you know things are going very badly for Clemson University.

It’s a well-written little essay, so SOS will talk you through it.


“As the story goes, a battlefield general, in the face of discouraging developments, declared to his troops, ‘I feel sorry for the bastards that have us surrounded.’ Well, some of us in the Collins-Pickens family are beginning to identify with that type of scenario. [Nice folksy – but not too folksy – beginning. I’d drop Well.]

What follows are opinions about unpleasant goings-on at Clemson University that have slighted members of our family and leave us feeling insulted, degraded and unwelcome at our alma mater. Whatever Clemson’s interpretation, it feels like a battle to us. [Notice how he’s keeping the battle metaphor going. Very nice.]

It all begins with Clemson alumnus and attorney Joel W. Collins Jr. of Columbia. Joel is solid in character, gifted in his work, and that reputation led Gene Troutman, a Clemson University employee, to seek Joel’s representation in an effort to save his job. People deserve to know certain nuances about Troutman’s situation, about how Joel eventually became involved in a lawsuit against his beloved school, and about ongoing responses by those representing Clemson. [Hear the attractive tone? UD suspects you only get this tone if you come from twenty generations of southerners.  Calm, sad, mature, reflective.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for me to sound like this.]

Joel is my brother and a Clemson alumnus — as am I. Also, our father, two uncles, another brother, a brother-in-law, Joel’s wife, his daughter, his two sons, his daughter-in-law and three nephews attended Clemson. Our mom, Anne Pickens Collins, was, in 1985, Clemson Mother of the Year. [UD can’t stand the word mom, but let that go.] That totals 16 Clemson loyalists in our immediate family. With Gen. Andrew Pickens also included in our lineage, I believe anyone would conclude this family is steeped in Clemson loyalty and traditions, and with strong Upstate ties.

Now, back to the problem. [Brisk and effective transition.] Troutman had worked two years as executive secretary of the Clemson Board of Trustees, having been singled out from about 150 applicants who wanted that job. When important differences with his superiors led to the risk of losing his job, Troutman contacted my brother, felt comfortable with his style of representation and requested to become a client.

Joel only agreed to assist Troutman after careful deliberation — and with mixed emotions. Joel reasoned that a Clemson diehard had the best chance of resolving the differences in a manner that would result in the least disruption for Clemson and with the least duress for Troutman. And be aware of this also: No attorney when taking on a new client can know beforehand the nature of facts that will unfold.

However, the purpose of this piece is not to explore the merits of Troutman’s case. In time his complaints will be adjudicated in a court of law before a jury of his peers. What needs to be revealed is how some at Clemson who are making decisions and calling the shots are choosing to personally isolate, attack and try to stigmatize my brother and therefore our entire family. One example (from a list): Joel was invited to attend the recent 2009 Clemson Alumni Distinguished Service Award ceremonies. Then, in a roundabout but obvious manner, Joel (and his distinguished-in-her-own-right wife, Rhonda) were “uninvited” and told not to appear — though he is himself a prior recipient of the award. [The writer knows that you have to be very careful here. You don’t want your reader dismissing your argument as founded on spite, wounded feelings, whatever. That’s why it’s so important to establish – as this person has – a tone of confidence and trustworthiness.]

Joel has given generously of his time and money to Clemson over many years. Believe me, Clemson likely has never had a more loyal alumnus than my brother. Clemson representatives, on the other hand, are delaying, denying and attacking Joel, attempting to diminish him and quash his search for evenhandedness and truth. [To an easterner like UD, some of this reads as rather high rhetoric — attempting to diminish — but I like it. It’s not the way we’d say it out here (forget for the moment that UD‘s in Key West), but it’s absolutely fine.] Prior Clemson presidents Sikes, Poole, Edwards, and Cox would never have let the school operate in a manner short of being fair, just and ethical. [You could drop the word being.]

My sense of this whole sordid situation is that the actions of some Clemson representatives against my brother have their basis in egomania — defenses of large egos that have been warped by too much power and too much money. [Notice that the writer doesn’t bring out the big muzzleloaders until he’s made you like and trust him. Very smart.] Lord Acton warned, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” How sad it is when any authority approaches confrontations by attempting to deny claims and cloak facts in order to bring about a desired resolution. People intuitively know this: Facts are stubborn things grounded in truth, and truth is the fundamental concept of Western civilization. [If I were advising this writer, I’d tell him to drop all of this, starting with Lord Acton. Why? It’s really just cliches — close to bloviating. Takes away from the specificity of his attack.]

My brother will be just fine. His resolve and history tell me that his critics will not be able to lessen him, and that in the end he will only be bolstered by this unfortunate style of embroilment. [Lovely. But drop this unfortunate style of. Just bolstered by this embroilment. A mixed metaphor, to be sure, but it’s okay. Nice alliteration on the Bs.]

My wish and prayer is that when all truths have surfaced, the outcome will not degrade the grand legacy of Clemson University.” [Again, ends with way high southern rhetoric. But you get to do this sort of thing at the conclusion of a piece. And we get the message, right? Some of Clemson’s fiercest loyalists are deeply injured by what they perceive as arrogance and personal cruelty among its leaders.]

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