Board chairman: Legislature could have handled S.C. State in a ‘less damaging manner’

South Carolina State University in Orangeburg

COLUMBIA — The chairman of the board of trustees of South Carolina State University said in a letter that the school’s woes could have been handled in a “less damaging manner” by the General Assembly.

In a letter with Thursday’s date, William Small said S.C. State’s board of trustees has been “unfairly disparaged” during the past few weeks, after a House panel advanced a measure that called for the temporary closure of the state’s only historically black college to deal with its estimated $70 million debt, and later introduced one that called for the removal of the school’s board and president. On Thursday, the Senate introduced a bill that called for the removal of the board as well.

“I sadly feel South Carolina State University has experienced irreparable short-term damage — the longer term effects of which are yet to be determined,” Small wrote. “My hope and prayer is that the histrionics will cease and that better judgment and reason will somehow find a place at the table.”

Florence Republican and Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, sponsor of the Senate bill that calls for the ouster of the board, said Thursday that changes have to be made at the university to protect the school and the state’s taxpayers.

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“I think we’ve got to take a drastic step,” Leatherman said. “And this is a drastic step to see if we can get that institution back on the right track to educate our young people.”