ORANGEBURG — Embattled trustees at S.C. State said Thursday the state’s only public historically black college will survive efforts by state lawmakers to oust its board.
“If I was in church, I would be saying the devil was coming to destroy it,” acting trustee chairman Jim Corbitt, a Greenville pastor, said during a board meeting, drawing cries of “Amen” from some trustees.
S.C. State is continuing an internal investigation into criminal allegations, trying to replace its president, who resigned in March, and dealing with years of financial shortfalls.
“We should promise to never find ourselves in this situation again,” said trustee Tony Grant, a Columbia businessman. “It’s embarrassing, and it’s uncalled for, and it’s avoidable.”
The S.C. House gave final approval to a bill Thursday that would replace the university’s board by July 1. A similar bill has been introduced in the state Senate.
Corbitt said he had no comment about lawmakers trying to oust all the trustees. But trustees Robert Nance, district director for U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat, and Robert Waldrep, an Anderson attorney, said an overhaul is unnecessary.
Nance and Waldrep were two of four trustees sent letters by state Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, asking for their resignations. The others were Matthew Richardson, a Columbia attorney, and Patricia Lott, a retired educator. Ford cited, among other issues, the four voting to reinstate George Cooper as president in 2010, weeks after he was fired after poor performance reviews.
“If Senator Ford resigns first, I would resign,” Waldrep said. “My intent is stay here to try and solve the problems of South Carolina State, and I don’t think resigning is the best solution.”
Waldrep said he had no regrets about bringing back Cooper because the school had a leadership void. Still, he blamed S.C. State’s problems on weak leadership by recent presidents. Cooper resigned in March, weeks after former SLED chief Reggie Lloyd said he had found undisclosed criminal issues in his ongoing internal investigation.
Richardson and retired Army Gen. Walter Johnson resigned from the board Monday, saying they “no longer believe the board can reform itself or effectively govern.”
Richardson, who said he did not leave because of Ford’s letter, said some board members reportedly are under investigation. He suggested in a letter sent to the board in March that they resign.
The turmoil does not help morale among the 4,300 students at S.C. State, where enrollment has dropped in recent years.
“It doesn’t do any good in telling people who we are and what we do,” student body president Austin Floyd said.