Photo: Mike Woodel / The Daily Gamecock

School of Law tour unmasks structure rich in history, potential

The public finally received a glimpse of USC’s newest building Tuesday morning as School of Law officials gave a first look at the nearly-finished $80 million Senate Street campus.

Dean Robert Wilcox of the School of Law led media personnel on a guided tour of the 187,500-square-foot building, which broke ground in September 2014. Aside from improved classrooms and up-to-date technology, Wilcox thoroughly noted the building’s expanded indoor and outdoor facilities for students and significant use of natural light, a feature mostly absent from the outgoing Main Street campus. 

“As you move forward, the competition is stronger, you’ve got to be able to provide the type of education that people want to have,” Wilcox said. “And this building really does promise that. It promises not only the opportunity for the right programs in the classroom, but the opportunity to learn and study outside of class.” 

Though he spoke at length of the new facility’s role in attracting a robust student body, Wilcox said he believes the building has played a key role in faculty recruitment, as well.

Comprising a full block formed by Gervais, Bull, Senate and Pickens streets, the new building holds 17 classrooms in all -- a number identical to that of the Main Street campus -- and two courtrooms, both on the ground level and each named for USC School of Law alumni. The latter trait reflects a common theme incorporated by building architects Boudreaux Group of Columbia and Detroit-based Smith Group JJR: Many of the rooms reflect South Carolina’s history of law practice and enforcement.

In the sun-bathed central courtyard, granite benches are lined up in groups along the brick and grass surface. The benches were taken from Congaree River-bordered Central Correctional Institution, which closed in 1994. 

Overlooking the courtyard, the Coleman Karesh Reading Room on the second level features portraits of prominent South Carolina law practitioners, including Constitutional Convention delegate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and USC’s first African-American professor, Richard T. Greener. 

The larger of the building’s two courtrooms, named for the late Karen J. Williams, seats 300 and is intended for actual as well as mock trial proceedings. The judge’s bench at the front of the room is the original from the South Carolina Supreme Court, dating back to the 1870s.

Williams, a 1980 graduate of the School of Law, last worked as chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit before her retirement in 2009.

Law student Clarissa Guerrero was present for Tuesday’s tour and said she believes the new facility is a big step for the School of Law, soon to reach its 150th anniversary. 

“I think prospective students are going to be impressed,” Guerrero said. “It’s not an eyesore, it’s a building.” 

Staff and faculty began moving into the building last week and are scheduled to finish by May 25. 

The school opens for summer classes May 30 and will hold an official dedication ceremony Sept. 14.



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