Six seats on the South Carolina State University Board of Trustees are up for a vote in the Statehouse on Wednesday. And it does not look good for any of the incumbents.
Several legislators told South Carolina Radio Network that they do not expect any of the current trustees up for a vote Wednesday to be re-elected— even those not accused of any wrongdoing at the embattled school. Two of the seats are currently vacant. Most of the others will be up for re-election in 2014 or 2015. The governor chooses the last member of the board.
“There’s been way too much turmoil, way too much division,” Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) told South Carolina Radio Network. “It is in the best interests of South Carolina State University, the community, and most importantly the students that we have some stability.”
“I think what we’re going to see is that probably none of the incumbents will be returned,” Rep. Jerry Govan (D-Orangeburg) said.
The SC State board has fallen victim to serious infighting and legal troubles for nearly a decade. Wednesday will be the first time legislators have chosen trustees since the board’s former chairman Jonathan Pinson was indicted on corruption charges in January.
The school’s tribulations have led to a revolving door of school presidents. Most recently, previous leader George Cooper stepped down in March 2012. After a few months, the board appointed Cynthia Warrick to act as interim president. But they voted 6-5 earlier this year to find another permanent candidate— eventually settling on Citadel Vice President of Finance Thomas Elzey in yet another 6-5 vote.
The State Agency Head Salary Commission on Tuesday approved a base salary of $170,000 for Elzey. That was less than what the school wanted, but more than his predecessor received. It is also a higher base than comparable positions at other smaller state colleges, including The Citadel.
Any new trustees must be part of a delicate balancing act, as most of the members up for election Wednesday voted for Elzey in the contentious process. Cobb-Hunter said legislators want all of the new members to support the new president.
That determination led the SC House to pass a bill Tuesday crafted by the Legislative Black Caucus that would restructure the board of the historically-black college, ending the terms for all but two of the trustees this summer. The legislation passed overwhelmingly 106-1 and now heads to the Senate.
The lone “no” vote came from Govan, the only SC State alum serving in the House. Govan said he worried that removing the entire board at once would risk the school’s accreditation. “I think the message that we send (Wednesday) and the message that we send next year will prove more than adequate,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
Govan said he doubted the bill would pass the Senate in its current form. A similar proposal cleared the House last year, but never reached a vote in the other chamber. Govan said he would support sections of the LBC bill, noting that he also proposed a bill to cut back on the number of trustees at SC State.