Black lawmakers are slamming the state’s top accountant for comments he made that they felt disparaged South Carolina’s only public historically black college.
While the South Carolina Budget and Control Board disagreed over loaning $6 million to South Carolina State University, a land-grant college, Eckstrom characterized its students as “kids who are going there because they can’t get into these other schools–they can’t afford it,” at the same time urging the school to drop the historically black college or university (HBCU) distinction.
AUDIO: Eckstrom’s full comments in board meeting (1:19)
After some in the room’s audience (many of them SC State supporters) voiced their disapproval, Eckstrom eventually responded, “I stand corrected.”
Representative Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, was in the meeting. The university is in his district and he is an active alumnus.
“I was somewhat concerned about the tenor and tone in the conversation that took place… because everybody knows South Carolina State has never received an appropriate share of funding,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
But after the meeting, SC State president Thomas Elzey defended Eckstrom, saying the comptroller simply had a clumsy choice of words. “What he was intending to say and what I think he was saying is that we have a large number of student who attend our university who are students who have great needs,” according to WIS. A higher proportion of our students require and receive need-based financial aid than any other school and we welcome those students to our school. We always welcome those students to our school.”
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, sent out a statement Wednesday afternoon, asking Eckstrom for an apology. Along with taking aim at the state’s GOP, he said:
“Richard Eckstrom should immediately apologize to the students and alumni of South Carolina State University for his uninformed, ignorant, and embarrassing statements earlier today. Those comments demonstrated a severe lack of understanding of our only public, historically black college in South Carolina.
As a result of his callous remarks, Mr. Eckstrom has insulted the names of prominent SC State alumni such as Congressman Jim Clyburn, General Abraham Turner, Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ernest Finney, Judge Matthew Perry, and the first African-American woman elected to the South Carolina legislature Juanita Goggins.”
Another Orangeburg Democrat, longtime Rep. Gilda Cobb Hunter tweeted, “Shame, Shame, Shame on you @ComptrollerSC.”
Eckstrom could not be reached for comment after the meeting.