There have been dozens of letters about the College’s plans to remove trees next to Randolph Hall on the Faculty/Staff list serve. Here are three to give you a sample of the debate:


Original Letter from Jean Everett: Dear Colleagues,

1. I want you all to be aware that our administration is planning to remove 10 significant native trees from the area around Randolph Hall. The 4 large magnolias and 2 mature palms that grace the south side of the building are slated to go, as well as 4 American hollies (the trees with the red berries) on the north side. The reason given to me is that the Colleges landscape architect and a building conservator from Philadelphia recommend it. Ive been told that smaller trees will be replanted, but given no guarantee that native species will be used.

I object to this proposal. I feel that cutting these trees will significantly diminish the beauty of our campus landscape, and significantly reduce the diversity of the plantings around Randolph Hall. These are mature trees that add a lot of grace to the building, and a lot of color and texture as well. They are home to many birds. The trees are far enough away from the building to allow for air circulation, and their root systems pose no obvious threat. The magnolias clearly could be pruned to improve air circulation if that is really deemed necessary. Theres no need to take the drastic action of removal. I object to cutting the hollies particularly because of their fruit these red berries add welcome dots of color to our campus during the winter season.

In addition, the removals seem directly contradictory to our new draft strategic plan Goal 8, Strategy 9: Beautify the campus by planting and labeling indigenous trees and shrubs and employing historic landscaping patterns. Seek arboretum certification if introduced by the state. A sterilized campus landscape does not lend itself to arboretum status.

If you also object to this plan to cut our lovely trees, I ask that you contact Monica Scott and President Benson and ask them to reconsider their plans.

Take care. Jean.

Jean Everett, Ph.D., Senior Instructor, Department of Biology, College of Charleston
66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424

206 Science Center, Phone: 843/953-7843, Departmental Phone: 843/953-5504, Fax: 843/953-5453

"One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal." Martin Luther King


Response from Monica Scott


I would like to respond to the concerns that have been expressed regarding the removal of several trees surrounding Randolph Hall. The information that follows is intended to give the campus community a complete understanding of the context within which the decision to remove these trees was made.

In 2007, the State appropriated several million dollars to the College to fund critical repairs to the exterior of Randolph Hall, Towell Library, and Porters Lodge. These buildings are national historic landmarks. They are the most important buildings at the College and some of the most important buildings in the city of Charleston.

A Conservation Master Plan was completed by Cummings and McCrady (a Charleston-based architectural firm), Cultural Resource Consulting Group (a Philadelphia- based architectural conservator), Craig Bennett (a Charleston-based structural engineering firm) and Robert Stockton ( a College of Charleston adjunct professor in historic research). This study provided the basis for the scope of the restoration project.

Following the completion of the plan, a Charleston-based landscape design firm, DesignWorks, was added to the team to assess the landscaping elements as they related to the buildings
renovation, long-term preservation and general aesthetics. The conclusion of the relevant members of the team was that the significant deterioration of Randolph Hall was the direct result of constant moisture on the stucco and substrate. They further concluded that the magnolias prevent light and air circulation around the building facade.

Without removal of the magnolias, as well as several other landscape adjustments, the building will continue to deteriorate at an ever-increasing rate. In general, best practices indicate that tall trees should be planted a minimum of 25 feet from the exterior wall of a building. Tall trees in close proximity to a building keep the building damp and promote organic growth that damages woodwork and masonry. In addition, the trees adjacent to Randolph Hall shed leaves, fill the gutters and prevent proper drainage of water away from the building. Also, their root systems can complicate site drainage away from the building and damage its foundation.

Based on the consultants
conclusions and recommendations, the College concurred that the trees should be removed for the long-term preservation of this historic structure. The college leadership is very aware of its responsibility to maintain and protect the beauty and historic nature of the campus. In this case, however, the duty of the College to protect and preserve Randolph Hall had to be weighed against the need to ameliorate the actual and potential future damage to the building that these trees can cause.

I hope that this explanation clarifies the issue and helps the campus community understand why these actions are necessary.



Response from Jean Everett



Thank you for responding to the obvious campus-wide concern about cutting down the trees around Randolph Hall. Although more elaborate, your explanation is essentially the same as what you gave me earlier this week, and Im still not buying it. As others have already noted, the 25’ “rulewould eliminate most trees on campus, including all the live oaks on the north side of Randolph Hall, and in fact it would eliminate most trees in the city.

Allow me a personal example. We live in Radcliffeboro. We have 3 large trees less than 25from our house, including a massive pecan that is also less than 3from our neighbors house. With proper pruning, these trees do no harm. To the contrary, they bless us with shade, birds, lovely native vines, year round color and interest, even nuts! We would not dream of cutting them down. Oh, wait. We actually have our neighborshouses on 2 sides that are less than 25from our house. Should we ask them to tear them down? Absurd.

Trees are an essential part of a beautiful urban landscape. They are one of the major graces that make Charleston such a wonderful, livable city. Our campus trees are an essential part of our campus landscape. Essential. That means we should work with them, not destroy them.

I agree with the many others that have written that we should examine this decision more thoroughly. A decision that affects the entire campus community should not be made without input from the community. It should not be made without alternatives to consider. Point for consideration: removing the magnolias will expose the south side of the building to full, hot, Southern sunlight. What effect will that have on the building? Where is that data? Obviously, pruning is an option. I request that an independent, qualified arborist be consulted to consider pruning these trees for improved air circulation, if that is truly considered necessary. DesignWorks is clearly out of touch with the aesthetic values held by many of the folks who work at the College. Their minimalist approach and use of exotic, and even invasive, species threatens to destroy the texture of our campus landscape. I request that alternative design approaches also be considered.

Finally, will you please address the rumor that I have now heard from 3 sources that the plan is to remove these trees during spring break, when the majority of us will be off campus?

Thank you. Jean.

Jean Everett, Ph.D., Senior Instructor, Department of Biology, College of Charleston
66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424
206 Science Center, Phone: 843/953-7843, Departmental Phone: 843/953-5504, Fax: 843/953-5453



Monica Scott announcing forum on the issue


In order to further explain to the campus community the rationale for the removal of the trees near Randolph Hall within the context of the overall Randolph Hall restoration project, the Office of Facilities Planning will host an open campus forum from 9  to 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 12, in Alumni Hall.

At the meeting, I will be joined by the restoration consultants who worked on the plan for this project. We will outline the project and the reasons that necessitate the removal of the trees. There will then be ample time for questions and answers.

It is our sincere hope that by having a discussion in which the views of all parties are treated with respect and courtesy that we will be able to work together to reach a solution that takes all viewpoints into consideration.


Letter to the Editor from Mitch Colgan, Chair of Geology


Let the community talk trees
Thursday, February 12, 2009

You'd think that College of Charleston administrators would have learned their lesson about the inadvisability of removing trees on campus without consulting the larger college community. After all, the college has ample experience with public opposition to previous tree removal plans on and near campus.

But the college faces yet another fracas over its plans to remove 10 trees near iconic Randolph Hall. The work would be done in preparation for restoring the building, and purportedly it is needed to reduce dampness that is damaging the historic structure.

The college plans to remove four large magnolias, two mature palms and four American hollies.

A rally is scheduled for noon today at the Cistern in the shadow of those trees. The Faculty Senate has petitioned school President George Benson not to move forward with the plan until it can be justified to faculty, staff and students.

Faculty members, who happened upon the information, have raised a number of questions. For example, they want further explanation of the restoration issue, including possible alternatives to the trees' removal.

They question the expense in the current economy. Generally, they strongly support leaving the indigenous trees where they are.

The faculty received some answers from the college director of facilities Monica Scott, but only after the plans were complete and considerable anxiety had set in. She said that a team of engineers, architects, landscape designers and building conservationists worked on the plan to restore Randolph Hall, and that the tree removal was recommended by members of the team.

The trees, she said, keep the building damp and promote organic growth that damages woodwork and masonry. In addition, they shed leaves, fill the gutters and prevent proper drainage of water away from the building. Also, their root systems can complicate site drainage away from the building and damage its foundation.

Unfortunately, the college community wasn't brought into the planning process at the outset. Consequently, the administration has lost credibility on the issue and complicated its own plans.

It is understandable that the college doesn't want to make technical decisions about a building restoration by popular vote. But the faculty of the liberal arts college comes with impressive academic credentials and may have ideas worth considering.

The larger college community enjoys the shade the trees provide, and people throughout the Lowcountry take pride in the beauty of the Cistern as it now appears. Their ideas are worth hearing, too.

The administration might have predicted this to-do by looking at recent history. Several years ago, the administration planned to chop down the large Sottile tree which is decorated annually at Christmas. It was old and scraggly. Students protested and the tree remains a revered part of campus tradition.

A few years after that the administration was about to remove bald cypress trees between Maybank Hall and the Robert Scott Library. Again, the students protested. The president decided the students were right and even planted two more trees to beautify the walkway.

Removing lovely, mature trees should be done only if there are compelling reasons. The administration shouldn't be reluctant to consider objections and alternative proposals from the college community.

Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences
College of Charleston
66 George St.
Charleston, SC  29424         843-953-5463        843-953-5446 fax