ORANGEBURG — Some South Carolina State University students protested, blasted music and beat drums to make it known they wanted interim president Cynthia Warrick to remain permanently in the school’s top post.
A group of students, as many as 150, gathered Thursday outside Lowman Hall, where a Board of Trustees meeting was being held. Board discussions on handling declining enrollment and dealing with a $6 million budget deficit at times were drowned out by chants, drumbeats, and the amplified music of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come.”
Student Government Association President Nathaniel Shazier, who participates in board meetings but cannot vote, asked the board to suspend the search for president and simply hire Warrick. She relates well to students, has been working to repair the school’s reputation, and her continued service would bring stability to the school, he said.
But the board voted 6-5 against doing that. Instead it will follow through with its planned search process, in which Warrick is a candidate.
“This is not going to discourage us,” said Shazier, who also said he has gathered 1,500 signatures of undergraduate and graduate students on a petition supporting Warrick for permanent president. “We have unwavering faith in Dr. Warrick.”
Several board members opposed to calling off the search said Warrick was the top candidate for the job, but they wanted to continue the search find the best leader possible.
Warrick’s greatest accomplishment so far, she said, was using her personal connections to bring in top-notch administrators. The school’s leaders in finance, academics and other programs have the skills to sort out problems in their departments and to move them forward, she said.
She said she was humbled by the students’ show of support. “That’s why I get up every day.”
But the next president of S.C. State is going to have some big problems to sort out.
Eric Eaton the university’s assistant vice president for finance, said leaders are trying to compensate for a $6 million budget shortfall this year.
The university expected to bring in about $88 million in operating money this year, he said. But it fell short because:
Enrollment fell from about 3,900 students in the fall to 3,400 in the spring, which meant less income from tuition.
Fewer students than expected live on campus service this year, so the school has less income from food and other “auxiliary” services.
A major federal grant for producing textbooks for schools in Africa ran out, with no new large grants to replace it.
Eaton said the university will cut spending and eliminate unnecessary positions. If those measures don’t provide enough relief, the university will have to require employees to take unpaid furloughs, which would save $150,000 per day.