York Tech responds to criticism over leasing space to Sons of Confederate Veterans

York Tech says it can't ban Confederate group
Published: Oct. 31, 2016 at 10:14 PM EDT|Updated: Jan. 18, 2017 at 5:22 PM EST
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ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - Leaders at York Technical College in Rock Hill responded to criticism Monday over leasing space to the Son's of Confederate Veterans for an event next year.

Earlier this year, leaders at The Hood Center entered into a lease agreement with the SCV for March 2017.

Some citizens, including members of the area NAACP, were concerned symbols like the Confederate flag might be publicly displayed and create division.

School leaders said they considered backing out of the contract, until receiving advice from attorneys.

"The law tells us that we cannot control the views of those who rent from us, no matter how disgusting we might believe those views to be," said Dr. Greg Rutherford, president of York Technical College.

School leaders said 4 different attorneys advised against breaking the contract.

"One attorney expressed it this way, and I quote, 'they will sue you and you will lose,'" said Melanie Jones, with York Tech.

Area NAACP leaders were at Monday's news conference and received a copy of the agreement, that they planned to review with attorneys.

"There may be a way for York Tech not to allow this contract to go forward," said Jacques Days of the local NAACP chapter that represents Rock Hill.

York Tech leaders said language in the contract allows the college to have complete control over what is displayed publicly.

"They have to get our permission to display anything and we won't allow them to display things that we don't want them to display, to wit the Confederate flag for sure. We'll see what else they come up with," said Dr. Marc Tarplee, with York Tech.

College leaders said they will continue to meet with the NAACP to have a dialogue. Tarplee said officials would be in touch with the SCV as the event drew closer to make sure the organization was aware of the rules in the contract.

"Whatever they do will be done in a private room and no one else will be able to see it, so if we continue this it might take us into a very interesting discussion of what it means to display something," Tarplee said.

WBTV reached out to the leader of the South Carolina SCV to learn more about the event in March.

"Once a year we have a reunion in different parts of the state in which we meet with each other, join hands with each other, both black and white, and just conduct the business of our organization," said Thomas Leland Summers, with the SCV.

Summers added that the group has a strong policy against hate and is made up of both black and white members who were descendants of those who fought in the Civil War.

He said he had not been in contact with York Tech since Monday's announcement.

"My executive council will review it and we'll figure out what action we need to take from that point," Summers said.

York Tech said the SCV approached the school about leasing the space last spring.

"We will be their landlord for a Friday and a Saturday, March 17 and 18th, and the sooner it's done and over, the better for me and all of us," said Rutherford.

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