By Barney Blakeney
South Carolina State University needs to come up with some people willing to serve on its board of trustees. And that needs to happen soon. Revelation that almost no one is offering as candidates to serve on the South Carolina State University Board of Trustees come as little surprise to many. If the university is to survive, somebody’s got to do it, alums agree.
Currently, the SCSU board is manned by interim members appointed by the legislature after a series of issues nearly led to closure of the institution. Dr. William Small was chairman of the last duly appointed trustee board members. His board was unceremoniously dismissed. Small said this week, considering how previous trustee board members were treated, there’s no surprise few are willing to risk their professional reputations and investments of time and money to be treated callously.
His board’s members within only the year they were seated increased the school’s enrollment and budget revenue, helped to strengthen the administration and fought consistent under funding while being under-resourced, Small said. Still they had their chairs pulled from beneath them, he said. Their efforts were rewarded with dismissal as a hidden agenda was implemented, he believes. That agenda ultimately will result in SCSU coming under the academic umbrella of the University of South Carolina he said.
Voices advocating for equitable support for an autonomous SCSU have been minimal, Small said. And until the state’s legislature and Department of Higher Education commit to restoring an SCSU that is competitive with other institutions of higher learning in the state, SCSU as it is known traditionally, will “die on the vine”, he said.
SCSU likely will follow the path being taken by Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country – marginalization and/or demise, Small said. The interim board that’s been in place two years has not presented a plan to do otherwise, he said. SCSU’s latest hurdle – the struggle to recruit trustee board members – continues on a path to insolvency as an autonomous institution, he said.
SCSU Charleston Alumni Chapter President Ken Morris said the failure of willing candidates to come forward to take seats next year when interim board members must leave, points to the apathy of quality candidates who could make a difference at the institution. Alumni chapters have been working to spread the word about the need for trustee recruits, Morris said, but their calls obviously are going unanswered. He intimated there are some who admit they are unwilling to serve. The story of SCSU’s history as an institution that prepared world leaders at a time when racial discrimination was at its height seems to be falling on deaf ears, he said.
John J. Funny, South Carolina State University National Alumni Association president urges the commission that oversees the selection of Colleges and Universities Boards to re-open the SCSU application process to allow others to apply. The one bright side to this controversy is that stakeholders and supporters of South Carolina State University National Alumni Association fully understand that the school is actively seeking individuals who are prepared to give of their time and energy to be an asset to the University, he said.
“And finally, while we currently have a board that has worked extremely well and hard, I want to thank them for their service, leadership and commitment to SCSU. Additionally, I would urge the state legislators to retain as many as possible of the current board members for consistency and gradually increase the board until all board positions are filled. I would also invite and encourage everyone to consider serving in this role for our beloved South Carolina State University,” he said.