New eyes on S.C. State

The recently appointed members of S.C. State University’s interim board of trustees come with some impressive credentials in business, law, education and even science.

And with one asset that doesn’t show up on their resumes: For the most part, they are new to the beleaguered Orangeburg college.

That’s not to say that board members should not feel a sense of loyalty to the institution they are governing. And it’s not to say they won’t develop an attachment to the school.

But what it says is that they arrive on the job not beholden to anyone.

S.C. Rep. Gilda Cobb Hunter, D-Orangeburg, has said one reason S.C. State got into such hot water was that it was governed by a board composed mostly of insiders with their own agendas and connections. She has said the interim board members have “the capacity to move S.C. State in the right direction.”

Certainly, the recent history of the school and its board members indicates that old school ties don’t necessarily translate into institutional success.

The board experienced bitter divisions and oversaw the school as it spiraled into increasing debt, mismanaged finances, nearly lost accreditation and ushered in and out multiple top-level administrators. Indeed, former board chairman Jonathan Pinson was recently sentenced to five years in jail for corruption.

Clearly, the new board will have to make some changes at S.C. State, beginning with diminishing its red ink. It also will have to become informed about what features of the school must not change. Colleges tend to find their niches. S.C. State, the only public college in South Carolina that is historically black, strives to educate students who do not qualify for other state schools, academically or financially — a worthy objective.

But the board will have to be open to new ideas if it is to turn the school around — every idea but shutting down the school, as board member Steve Swanson said.

And the S.C. State family will also have to be open to new ideas regarding the institution.

The interim board has been appointed to serve until June of 2018. It has a lot of work to do, and it needs the support of the state and the school’s alumni, staff and students in order to accomplish its task.