The S.C. State Board of Trustees has been walking a rocky road through financial problems, staff turnovers, declining enrollment and even an unspecified criminal investigation.

So it is particularly encouraging to know that the boardís members have agreed, finally, on who will serve as chairman.

And it is also encouraging that Walter L. Tobin, as that new chair, plans to be transparent and obey the stateís Freedom of Information law.

Neither electing a board chairman nor promising to obey the law would seem unusually newsworthy at many colleges.

But S.C. State has struggled with both issues.

The board, often divided, has routinely withheld public information, and in doing so created distrust and confusion.

And Mr. Tobinís election was anything but smooth. He was elected after three rounds of voting Wednesday. In September, he believed he was elected chairman, but the vote was challenged.

Then some board members elected Pat Lott, but that vote was also challenged.

So as S.C. State, the only historically black college in our state, begins a new year, it will do so with a new board leader and a new resolve to take care of the schoolís pressing business.

Mr. Tobin said at the top of the priority list will be searching for a permanent president for the university. Former president George Cooper resigned in March under a cloud. Cynthia Warrick has been serving as interim president.

Mr. Tobin, who lives in Columbia and is a retired superintendent of Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5, has said that the boardís executive committee will act as the search committee, but that the Faculty Senate and other groups with campus connections will be consulted. The board will make the final decision.

The new president and Mr. Tobin will have their work cut out for them. Just this year, a board chairman stepped down, two members and the president resigned and eight top administrators were fired.

State legislators, including Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, have talked about shaking things up by restructuring the schoolís board.

And even with support of powerful 6th District Rep. James E. Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the U.S. House, the schoolís planned transportation center, which would bear his name, has languished due to financial problems.

Mr. Tobin was elected by his peers by a vote of 6-4. He has committed to moving the university forward openly and honestly.

The entire board, including those who didnít vote for him, should recognize that this is no time for internal bickering.

S.C. State needs strong, consistent leadership to correct its course.