Senate balks at sacking S.C. State trustees

  • Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2012 12:07 a.m.

Columbia — State senators put a temporary halt Wednesday to efforts to oust the entire South Carolina State University Board of Trustees by July 1, calling the move unprecedented considering other scandals at public colleges.

“Who was managing (Jim) Holderman during his situation?” state Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, said referring to the USC president who resigned in 1990 amid allegations. “The (USC) board received a lot of criticism. (But) some of those board members are serving today. All I’m saying is that we need to be fair to S.C. State.”

In a higher-education subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Jackson said he and other senators would work on a compromise, rather than a bill passed by the House last week to replace all the Orangeburg school’s 13 trustees with seven temporary trustees who would serve the state’s only historically black public college until 2014.

Jackson said the House bill has “zero chance” of passing the Senate, where one member can prevent a measure from being considered on the floor.

Senate President John Courson, R-Richland, chairman of the subcommittee, said he would like to see something done before the legislative session ends next month, considering mounting problems at school that include ongoing financial shortfalls; declining enrollment; an internal investigation that found undisclosed criminal issues; the firing of eight high-ranking employees in February; and the resignation of school president George Cooper.

Jonathan Pinson also resigned as chairman of the trustees, but remains a board member.

“It’s an institution on the verge of collapse,” Courson said. “It’s imperative to come up with a structure that says, ‘Enough is enough. You cannot continue to operate like this.’?”

S.C. State’s current trustees, who remain in place, will meet today in their ongoing search for an interim president at the 4,300-student school.

Jackson said lawmakers have a chance to reshape the board by filling two current openings and replacing trustees when their terms expire. The board could have more openings if any legal action is taken, he said. No charges have been filed.

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