S.C. State board feuds over Cooper

George Cooper

GRACE BEAHM

ORANGEBURG -- S.C. State President George Cooper was backed and bashed Thursday by dueling forces, underscoring the turmoil clouding his leadership of the historically black university.

First, S.C. State trustee Walter L. Tobin said a recent vote of no confidence in Cooper by the university's faculty Senate was a "serious matter." Then Tobin criticized a statement that trustee Chairman Jonathan Pinson released in the aftermath of that vote.

Pinson said the Senate is not representative of S.C. State's full faculty and said Cooper -- who lost and regained his job in a tussle with trustees last summer -- has the confidence of the university's board.

That was out of line, Tobin said. "To have the chair publicly state that the vote does not represent the faculty undermines any review of the matter that this board may undertake and calls into question the independence of the faculty Senate," Tobin said.

Pinson, who did not attend the meeting, said: "The time has come for us to move forward. Dr. Cooper has brought in some new talent. There comes a time when folks have to learn to come together."

State Sen. John Matthews, an Orangeburg Democrat and S.C. State alumnus, also jumped into the fray, penning a letter later Thursday to Pinson decrying what he described as "the political rhetoric that has led to the call for S.C. State University President George Cooper to resign."

"Such tactics attempt to usurp the management structure set up by the General Assembly -- and the people of South Carolina -- to govern our public colleges and universities," Matthews wrote in a letter that was co-signed by four other state senators. "To some degree, S.C. State is, in part, the victim of a media all too eager to heap criticism upon the state's sole publicly supported black university."