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S.C. State - A Cancer We Ignored
2/25/2015 4:28:37 PM

Dr. W. Franklin Evans

Michael Allen, SCSU Alumni President
By Barney Blakeney

The question some were asking now that so many are emerging in support, is where have all the proponents for South Carolina State University been over the past years as the institution steadily slipped into decline. The institution’s Board of Trustees’ Monday action placing President Thomas Elzey on administrative leave effective immediately, may make the question moot.

The board in a special called meeting placed Elzey on indefinite administrative leave and named SCSU Provost Dr. W. Franklin Evans acting president.

“Under my leadership we will continue to move forward in preserving the rich legacy of excellence that is S.C. State University,” Evans said in a statement issued after the board’s decision. Since 1996 SCSU has had three presidents, four interim presidents and an acting president. Each president has served only four years.

SCSU has been faced with financial shortfalls due to declining enrollment, allegations of influence peddling on the part of its former board of trustee chairman and chief of police, a scathing S.C. Legislative audit of funding for the controversial Clyburn Transportation Center and the termination of eight department heads. Last year the school was given a year to correct financial and administrative issues or lose its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The institution has 25,000 alumni in 44 chapters around the country. National alumni association President Vernell Brown could not be reached for comment by press time.

A rally at the S.C. Statehouse in Columbia was planned for Feb. 24. Charleston Alumni Chapter President Michael Allen said he feels the rallying call by supporters has been muted until now for various reasons.

“We always smelled something foul, but we didn’t get the full intensity of the stink until closed closets were opened and we could see the depth of the crisis. I don’t know if it was self preservation, pride or just that we didn’t want to deal with the problems.

“Ours is a culture that doesn’t always talk about the issues we face. It’s a cultural/social thing. We choose not to address certain things that are sacred to us. Now, we’re forced to address those things,” he said.

He said what began years ago as finger pricks have festered into sores. Allen compared SCSU’s troubles to a diagnosed cancer which the patient chose to ignore. “It was a mass we ignored,” he said.

At other universities in the state, alumni play an integral role in the institutions’ governance. At SCSU, the alumni association were uninvited and did not demand a seat at the table where decisions about major aspects of the institution were made, Allen said.

“We saw the revolving door in the president’s office and the watched the appointments of trustees, but we were not engaged and were not a part of the vetting processes. Moving forward there needs to be more input from us. ’ll have to put mechanisms in place to do that,” Allen said.

But the alumni association’s input may not be needed in the immediate future. Amid calls for Elzey’s resignation from high profile members of the community and state legislature, SCSU’s board of trustees put the president on immediate administrative leave. An informed source said the board itself soon may be dissolved. In the coming weeks the state’s general assembly is expected to appoint a team to administer the school, the source said.

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