A state Senate panel on Tuesday advanced a bill that would remove the South Carolina State University board of trustees.
The Higher Education Subcommittee voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would replace the current board with a new five-member panel. That panel, appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, would serve through 2018. The proposal slightly differs from House budget language that would replace the board with the State Financial Accountability Authority (consisting of the governor, Senate and House budget chairmen, State Treasurer, and Comptroller General).
The measure now heads to the Senate Education Committee for its meeting Wednesday. It will likely be taken up on the Senate floor next week then sent to the House.
Clearly, this is a major bipartisan effort,” State Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said after the vote. “Because this institution is important and everybody recognizes there are problems there and it can no longer be as it has been.”
The move came one day after the SC State board of trustees voted to place current college president Thomas Elzey on paid administrative leave. State Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, said he viewed the removal as “too little, too late” and done by a “lame-duck board.”
He said the vote means state lawmakers must now move quickly to address the school’s future. “Between now and July 1 all you would have is an institution without a president, with a lame-duck board, and with potential students not applying to come and existing students looking for ways to leave,” he said.
Jackson said he does not think the current board of trustees will fight their removal with lawsuits, saying they appear “resigned” to their eventual ouster.
The new board would have the power to hire or fire the school’s president. It would take over school operations immediately after all five members are appointed. Some alumni are concerned that the sudden removal of the school’s board could hurt SC State’s accreditation, as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has previously warned against too much “political interference” with the school. Setzler said senators believe that appointing the new five-member board and then “backing out of the process.”
The difference between a businessperson and a good businessperson is somebody who can make a tough decision,” he said. “You’ve got to have people on that board wjp are willing to make a tough decision. That’s the bottom line.”