ORANGEBURG -- Faculty leaders at S.C. State University are calling for the board to remove President George Cooper.
It remains unclear if the board will do so, or if Cooper will resign, as the board heads into its second day of a closed-door session today.
The Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate released a statement late Wednesday saying the state's only public, historically black college was in "a state of crisis."
The group has worked tirelessly for more than three years to persuade the Board of Trustees that the university's current administration threatens the school's well-being, according to the statement.
But the board has consistently refused to consider faculty concerns, which include overseeing proper and responsible management of the school's financial affairs; ensuring the recruitment and retention of students that is so critical to the budgetary and academic health of the university; and putting forth a progressive academic agenda.
The statement called for the board "to act decisively and expeditiously" to remove Cooper now. If it doesn't do that, it runs the risk of "further eroding the school's credibility and legitimacy with the major stakeholders of South Carolina State University."
Faculty Senate head Larry Watson said he's not sure what the board will do today, but there is much discussion on campus about whether Cooper will step down or if the board will remove him. He said his group thinks that one of those two things needs to happen.
"We can fix what ails us," Watson said. But for that to happen, there must changes at the administrative level, he said.
The faculty statement came the day before Thursday's special board meeting. At that session, the board about 10:30 a.m. began meeting behind closed doors to receive legal advice on an ongoing, but unspecified, investigation.
It stopped its discussion around 4:30 p.m., and will resume at 9 a.m. today.
The Faculty Senate gave Cooper a vote of "no confidence" about a year ago. According to the group's most recent statement, that vote came after "a long and repeated history of such ineptitudes."
The board never agreed to publicly listen to, discuss or address faculty concerns in the wake of that no-confidence vote.
The board in 2010 fired Cooper, but a board with two new members rehired him two weeks later.
There has been upheaval and speculation at the school since Cooper last month fired eight high-level administrators as part of the unspecified, ongoing, internal investigation.
Cooper has said he would not discuss the details of the investigation, and would not comment on whether it was criminal in nature, until it was complete.
The university has hired attorney Reggie Lloyd, former chief of the State Law Enforcement Division, and Charleston attorney D. Peters Wilborn, from the firm of Derfner, Wilborn & Altman, to deal with it.
I'ssis Massaro, editor-in-chief of the student newspaper The Collegian, said the campus buzz about the firings had quieted, but news this past weekend about the resignation of board Chairman Jonathan Pinson, and a large media presence on campus, have fired it up again.
Students just aren't sure what's going on, she said. "But they know something's going on. People are confused and concerned."
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