State Senate snubs House in moving to fire trustees at South Carolina St. State

South Carolina State University in Orangeburg.

A House measure firing the trustees of South Carolina State University made it through the Senate on Thursday after senators replaced it with their own language.

The original language of the House bill called for replacing the heavily indebted university’s trustees with members of the State Budget and Control Board.

The Senate, while also wanting to fire the board that has overseen the state’s only historically black public college, would replace them with appointees picked by lawmakers and Gov. Nikki Haley.

The bills will likely go to conference committee, so that both chambers can hash out their differences, said Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Hopkins, one of the sponsors of the Senate bill.

“What concerns me is the timing,” Jackson said. “We’re just running out of time. We are fiddling while Rome is burning.”

S.C. State has been in financial straits for years, relying on the state for millions of dollars in loans and bailouts to pay its bills while sinking further into debt. A House panel threatened to temporarily shut down the school in February to get its finances in order, but lawmakers have instead chosen to try to replace the leaders.

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The trustees fired the embattled president, Thomas Elzey, a former Citadel administrator, in March, and last week, Board Chairman William Small Jr. stepped down. Elzey is suing the school and the trustees for breach of contract.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier versions of this story did not make it clear that S.C. State is the state’s only historically black public college.

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.