ORANGEBURG — Everybody who spoke at a forum on problems at S.C. State University agreed things needed to change at the state’s only public historically black university.
But they disagreed on whether replacing all members of the Board of Trustees, or dramatically altering the makeup of the board, would solve those problems, or simply create new ones.
Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and others interested in the future of the school attended the forum, hosted by the Orangeburg County Legislative Delegation and the House Ways and Means Higher Education Budget Subcommittee. State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, also attended.
S.C. State senior Deon Tedder said he supports the plan to replace the board. The university in recent years has replaced many administrators, but problems persist, he said. “The changes haven’t made any difference.”
S.C. State has been mired in problems in recent months, including an unspecified criminal investigation, the firing of eight high-level employees and the resignation of the president.
Two Orangeburg lawmakers have filed legislation that if passed would change the board. Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, has called for the entire board to be replaced. And Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, has called for reducing the number of board members from 13 to 9 and replacing certain members. Ford also has called for the replacement of members of the board but has not filed a separate bill.
Many of the more than 20 people who spoke at the forum said replacing all experienced board members could leave the institution unstable and vulnerable.
Larry Watson, president of the university’s Faculty Senate, said the group did not support replacing the entire board, even though the relationship between the board and faculty had become “increasingly turbulent” over the past three years.
In a prepared statement by the Faculty Senate, the group cautioned against knee-jerk reactions that could take the situation from bad to worse. It encouraged legislators to base all decisions on “credible and in-depth research.”
Kay Snider, president of the university’s Staff Senate, which is made up of non-faculty employees, said legislators should take some responsibility for the problems at the school. They are the ones who elect university board members.
Junior Daniel Shazier, who recently was elected president of the Student Government Association for the 2012-13 school year, said the university would benefit from having a student as a voting board member. Now, the Student Government Association president is a non-voting member of the board and can’t participate in closed-door sessions. Students need a voice, he said. “We are the ones who pay tuition.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.