University of South Carolina president discusses Uber safety during speech to Rotary Club of Aiken

April 9, 2019

The president of the University of South Carolina, during a visit to Aiken on Monday, talked about the death of one of his school’s students, Samantha Josephson, last month and also discussed how such a tragedy might be prevented in the future.

“That one hit so hard because I think all of us said, ‘That could have been my daughter,’” Harris Pastides told the Rotary Club of Aiken during the organization’s meeting at Newberry Hall. “She called for the Uber, she was on a phone and a car pulled up right to where she was standing. She opened (the door to) the backseat, got in and closed the door. Then he, the dastardly one, put the childproof locks down and went on to commit a horrific murder.”

According to law enforcement officials, Josephson, a senior, was abducted around 2 a.m. March 29 in the Five Points area of Columbia after climbing into a black Chevrolet Impala.

Josephson’s body later was found in a wooded part of Clarendon County. A press release from the State Law Enforcement Division stated that “multiple sharp force injuries” caused her death.

Nathaniel David Rowland, who was arrested March 30, has been charged with the kidnapping and murder of Josephson.

Pastides said the University of South Carolina would award Josephson a posthumous degree.

“Her parents contacted me on Sunday to tell me they’re coming down for what would have been her graduation,” Pastides continued, “and I said, ‘We’ll be there waiting for you.’ She had been accepted for law school – a free ride at Drexel University.”

In addition, Pastides urged the Rotary Club’s members to tell their children and grandchildren to always ask an Uber driver, “What’s my name?”

When a driver can’t answer that question, don’t get into the vehicle, Pastides said.

The University of South Carolina president added that an Uber executive told him that only 10 percent of Uber riders nationally ask their drivers, “What’s my name?”

“I’ve done it,” Pastides said. “I’ve gotten into an Uber without asking, ‘What’s my name?’”

Also during his speech, Pastides talked about his upcoming retirement and praised USC Aiken.

Pastides, 65, announced last fall that he would be stepping down from his position at the University of South Carolina in 2019.

“The decision was made not out of fatigue or because I was broken down,” Pastides said. “It was one of being satisfied. That’s an unusual word in today’s society. We all want more, and I’m not saying that critically because I also want more. But you have to teach yourself how to say, ‘Job well done,’ so I’ll click my heels after 11 years and let someone different – and hopefully younger – come in and take the reins of this beautiful institution.”

Pastides described USC Aiken as “one of the brighter stars in the whole constellation of University of South Carolina universities” during his tenure, which began in August 2008.

“There is no university in South Carolina with a better town-gown relationship,” he said of USC Aiken. “If threatened by an invader, wearing orange or not, the people in this room would lay themselves down in the middle of the road, just like they did in Tiananmen Square, and say, ‘You better not touch higher education in South Carolina and don’t you touch USC Aiken.’”

Pastides also thanked Dr. Sandra Jordan, USC Aiken’s chancellor, for inviting him to deliver the commencement address at her school May 8.