In electing Thomas J. Elzey president of South Carolina State University, the board is sending a firm message: It’s time to get the state’s only historically black public university back on track and moving forward.
Unfortunately, Mr. Elzey was elected by the narrowest of margins, 6-5. The board has been bickering about the situation for weeks.
Now that the selection has been made, it’s time for the board to unite behind Mr. Elzey, and to encourage the faculty and students to support him as well. His success will be the school’s success. And the school, which has been dealing with shrinking enrollment, charges of financial mismanagement and top officials being fired, needs some wins in its column.
Mr. Elzey has credentials that should stand him in good stead. For the past two years, he has been executive vice president for finance, administration and operations at The Citadel — the first African American named to a senior level position at the military school. His experience includes 27 years as a fiscal strategist managing finances of complex organizations and institutions.
At The Citadel, one of his responsibilities has been staff liaison to the Board of Visitors finance committee and to The Citadel Trust. The S.C. State Board has a history of tumultuous relationships with its university president. Mr. Elzey’s work with The Citadel board commends him for turning a contentious situation into one of mutual respect.
Interim S.C. State president Dr. Cynthia Warrick was not one of the three finalists selected by the board, but she received five write-in votes.
The president’s office has resembled a revolving door for several years. One president, George Cooper, was fired, then rehired and later retired — with a divided board at the helm.
The General Assembly will have an opportunity on May 1 to elect or re-elect six board members. Legislators would do well to choose board members determined to move ahead, not to continue fighting old battles. They will be lobbied by people with strong emotions.
That passion for S.C. State — board members, students, alumni, faculty and staff — can be a good thing if it is channeled toward coming to grips with the school’s mounting problems and taking tough action necessary to fix them.
Mr. Elzey was elected because a majority of the board feels he’s up to the task. He deserves more than a chance — he deserves support.
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