Why Fewer Clemson University Faculty Members Are Living in Clemson
Clemson University's total number of employees has grown nearly 10 percent in the past decade, with more than 480 faculty and staff members added from 2008 to 2018, according to the university. Over the same time, ZIP-code data from the university's office of institutional research shows that the number of employees living in Clemson, Central, Pendleton, Six Mile and Seneca has either virtually stagnated or decreased.
More Clemson University employees are living farther out from the college.
The city of Greenville has added more than 200 Clemson employees, Powdersville more than 100 and the city of Anderson about 50 since 2008, according to an analysis of university data by The Greenville News and Independent Mail.
While Clemson's expanding footprint with the International Center for Automotive Research and the downtown Greenville graduate business program explains some of the faculty housing trend, the shift is also the product of tight housing options in the immediate Clemson area, a seller's market and the cultural pull of more urban areas, according to faculty and local realtors.
Some are worried about how that affects the campus culture.
"We end up in many cases with a university where a lot of the faculty are sort of commuter faculty and they’re not really part of the community," said faculty senate president Jan Holmevik, an associate professor in the English department.
Some consider a variety of places faculty members can choose to live to be a benefit that helps attract talent.
"We want the best people from around the world to come work here, and people are drawn places for different reasons," said vice president of university relations Mark Land.
Tight Clemson real estate market makes finding the right home difficult
Neil Monaghan is the broker in charge for Monaghan Co. Real Estate in Clemson. For the last couple of years, housing inventory in the Clemson area has been tight, he said.
Monaghan said it has been a "seller's market" with high demand but no shortage of interest, meaning prices have increased.
"That is a need for our community, that $200,000 to $275,000 range — that elusive $250,000 home," Monaghan said.
In 2008, there were 539 faculty members living in the city of Clemson's 29631 ZIP code. There were 520 in 2018 after a decade of development that saw more than 200 single-family homes and 20 townhouses added in the Patrick Square development alone, according to Patrick Square sales counselor Susan Brady.
The number of Clemson staff members in the city has increased from 394 to 428 in the same time frame. The faculty includes lecturers, instructors and professors in addition to some administrators, and the university's staff includes individuals in non-teaching roles from university police to human resources employees.
Associate professor of history William Terry joined Clemson's faculty in 2009. When he moved to the Upstate, his wife was pregnant with their daughter and not working, and his starting salary left him constrained on options, he said.
"At the time, we were basically priced out of buying in Clemson," Terry said.
Andrew Pyle, an assistant professor of communication, had a similar experience in 2014. All of the homes he looked at within the city of Clemson limits were either well outside his and his wife's price range or the homes needed work that effectively made them out of range, he said. They ended up buying a home in Seneca.
Pyle said he has noticed that houses in Clemson are often sold before they even hit the market.
"The housing market in town is a little strange," said Clemson resident and assistant professor of economics Aspen Gorry. "There are a fair number of word-of-mouth sales. The desirable houses and neighborhoods move rapidly."
Teresa Jones, who has worked in real estate for 40 years, said such sales are particularly common for houses along the College Avenue corridor. She said those homes rarely go on the market and when they do, they might only be on there for a day, sometimes getting bought up as game-day houses.
Jones said he saw the market really tighten about a year ago.
"I keep waiting for the spring market to open up, and at this point it hasn't and we are at mid-March," Jones said.
For those not looking to buy, renting in Clemson can present its own challenges.
Josh Brown, Clemson's director of talent acquisition said a lot of new employees want to come to Clemson and set up shop for a year while learning about schools and traffic patterns and acclimating to the area.
"It is hard to find temporary housing that isn't student-centric," Brown said.
What it means to Clemson University that faculty are moving farther
Cynthia Young, the dean of the college of science, started at Clemson in 2017. She calls herself a member of the sandwich generation — she has both a young daughter and parents in their 80s.
In searching for a home, Young and her husband had to think about where their daughter would go to school and also locate a place with a first-floor bedroom so her parents could visit without climbing stairs. She said she could not find the right combination in Clemson, which she said felt too small, anyway, after moving from Orlando, Florida. She ended up in Anderson.
Greenville's magnetic pull for Upstate residents reaches Clemson
In addition to cost constraints in Clemson, Terry did not want his wife's job options to be determined only by the university, so the couple moved at first to Greenville.
The university is now trying to make it easier for employees' spouses to find work around Clemson. Brown said they recently hired a full-time staff member to help with a university program that helps partners of full-time employees find jobs.
The Terrys eventually moved from Greenville to Powdersville. William Terry said there are at least three other professors in his neighborhood.
Living further away has shaped Terry's interactions with the Clemson campus. After picking up his daughter from school and heading home, he said he never ends up going back to evening events on campus.
"I'm not going to turn around and come back out," Terry said. "I don't want to be an absent dad."
Terry said he is considering moving to Clemson now that he can better afford it, his daughter goes to Clemson Elementary and his wife is a teacher in Pickens County. He would caution new faculty members about the costs of being a commuter.
Stephanie Barczewski, another professor in Terry's department, has moved in the opposite direction. Barczewski and her husband spent a few years in Clemson when they first started in 1996 but then moved to Greenville because they wanted to live in a bigger city. They commute together to campus.
When they moved in 2002, it was rare to see Clemson faculty living in Greenville, she said.
Faculty-in-residence program creates opportunity for some at Clemson
While Holmevik and Grubb would like to see the city of Clemson and the university work together to focus on keeping faculty close by, there is at least one university program that already achieves that goal.
In the fall, Pyle, his wife and their 4 and 2-year-old sons will move into an apartment in the Stadium Suites residence hall on campus, just up the hill from Memorial Stadium. They will spend two years as part of the university's faculty-in-residence program, "being the presence of a family for students," Pyle said.
Pyle said he never leaves campus in the middle of the day to run home, fearing he won't find a parking space when he returns. Soon he'll be able to walk home and grab lunch and easily attend campus events in the evenings.
Pyle said he looks forward to walking with his sons to sporting events. He said he does not feel like his family was missing out by living in Seneca, but he is optimistic about the opportunities that will come from being right on campus.
"It will be a really nice change," Pyle said.
Young said she has faculty in her college of science that live down the street from the university as well as ones living in Anderson and Greenville. She said she has not seen a difference in campus engagement depending on where people live.
For some employees, Greenvile can be a selling point, Young said. Brown, who has worked in recruitment for seven years, agreed.
"For many of our individuals that are moving from a larger city, Greenville is our best shot at convincing them that Clemson is not as rural as they think it is," Brown said.
Clemson president Jim Clements echoed that sentiment.
"My view is, if you want to live in Greenville, you have great restaurants, great culture, you know that’s OK," Clements said. "It is an easy drive."
Holmevik worries that having faculty farther out discourages people from taking on service roles at the university and helping with extracurricular activities that support student life. For example, he said a faculty member living 40 minutes out is not likely to come back to campus for a 7:30 p.m. dinner to recruit a new professor.
“Clemson seems to be evolving into a student community on one hand and a retirement community on the other hand," Holmevik said. "There’s nothing wrong with either of them, but when we lose that central component, we as a city, community and university have a bit of a problem.”
Holmevik said he wishes the city of Clemson and the university had a strategy in place to encourage more faculty members to establish themselves near the campus.
"The faculty and staff who get their salary here and live in Greenville spend their money in Greenville," he said. "It is a financial leak as well as a cultural leak to Greenville, and the city and university both need to be mindful of it."
Alan Grubb, a history professor who has taught at Clemson for more than 50 years, said his department is split on advising new faculty to live near Clemson versus choosing Greenville.
Grubb, personally, would like to see more professors staying close to the university.
"The consequence of people living a great distance is there is not as much collegiality because people aren't around as much," he said. "That is an important part of the academic community."
Grubb said the tight housing market is nothing new in Clemson, a small city of approximately 16,000 residents alongside a university that employed 5,392 people on its local campus in 2018. He said he faced a similar situation as a newly minted professor.
Reposted from The Greenville News
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