COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- A day after the state's Ways and Means Committee in the South Carolina House voted to force out the Board of Trustees at SC State, a new bill in the Senate moved to oust the same university body.
Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman introduced on Thursday a bill to replace the trustees and turn over fiduciary control of SC State to a panel made up of members from the House, Senate, and Gov. Nikki Haley.
According to Leatherman;s bill, the group would appoint a new board, stipulating that each member must have backgrounds in finance, higher education, or public administration.
The group would assume control of the university's operation until the permanent trustees are elected by the General Assembly in June 2018.
The bill is gathering support and includes cosponsors Nikki Setzler, John Courson, John Matthews, Jackson, Brad Hutto, O'Dell, and Williams.
It's estimated SC State's deficit will reach $17 million by the end of the fiscal year.
State leaders have been vocal in recent weeks on doing something to reign in the university's deficit and hold leaders accountable, including a plan to shutter the college for more than a year while a state board took control and made changes.
However, a plan to keep SC State open and place its financial well being of the university to the state Budget and Control Board was approved by the Ways and Means Committee. The plan calls for an ouster of the trustees, though.
The university's Board of Trustees president responded to the Ways and Means Committee's actions on Thursday, but did not discuss the panel's decision. Instead, Dr. Williams Small, Jr. said that the short-term damage to SC State has been irreparable, but there's no telling what this will do to the long-term credibility of the school.
He also defended the Board of Trustees.
"The Board of Trustees at our University has been unfairly disparaged in this process. Our efforts and sacrifices of time, talent, money, and reputation have not been seen in the modern era. The order that has been restored to Board proceedings and conduct at the University has been more than noteworthy as well," he said.
He says the guiding principle for the Board and the ultimate goal for SC State is to create a university that is competitive with all the other schools in the state, not just as an HBCU but as an institution of higher education.
"This, it is important to understand, is our major challenge and obstacle to progress today," he said. "My hope and prayer is that the histrionics will cease and that better judgment and reason will somehow find a place at the table. Perhaps when that day arrives, we can begin a conversation where the enduring issues in the Abbeville v. South Carolina State Supreme Court Decision and other issues related to the challenges of developing modern and efficient systems for delivering quality educational services to all of our citizens can be fairly addressed."
The plan greatly resembles one proffered by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, who suggested a group of retired college presidents and business executives take over and hire an interim CEO.