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SCSU Will Recover From Campus Shooting, Say School Officials
1/31/2014 11:57:14 AM

Brandon Robinson

By Barney Blakeney

When it rains it pours. South Carolina State University in the past several years has endured numerous institutional tragedies. Last week another tragedy struck when a student was gunned down on campus.

Jan. 24 Brandon Robinson, 20, was killed as he argued with 19-year-old Justin Singleton near a student dormitory. Both students were members of the Bulldog football team. Singleton was arrested and charged with the murder Jan. 25. Police are looking for three others in connection with the murder.

Last week’s campus homicide continues a string of controversial events that confront the institution. But SCSU officials say none will prevent the 118-year-old institution from fulfilling its distinguished mission of educating students.

In recent years the university has faced mounting controversy. Increasing infrastructure needs and declining enrollment pushed board of trustee members to question allocations to the James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center as the school faces budget shortfalls. More than a decade after its conception and $50 million in federal funding, $25 million was unaccounted for and no construction had begun.

A S.C. Legislative Audit Council report revealed what amounted to a staff slush fund supported by sloppy oversight as the university progressed through a succession of presidents.

Since 2003 the university has had three interim presidents and three presidents. In February 2012 SCSU President George Cooper announced the termination of eight school officials to be followed by an internal investigation. In March, Cooper resigned.

Also in 2012 three trustees including the chairman of the board resigned.
In January 2013 former Trustee Board Chairman Jonathan Pinson and former SCSU Chief of Police Michael Bartley were indicted on federal allegations of participating in a kick back scheme.

Members of the Board of Trustees at South Carolina State University in April selected The Citadel Gen. Thomas J. Elzey as president of the university. As the school’s new president, Elzey inherited that array of challenges.

Just weeks after conducting a campus shooting drill - authorities at SCSU Dec. 3 conducted an active shooter exercise to test its mass notification system and assess its response to a real shooter situation - Robinson was gunned down on campus.

Elzey was unavailable for comment, but SCSU Charleston Alumni Chapter President Michael Allen was at the university Jan. 24 just after the shooting. Allen was in Columbia at a meeting when his daughter who is a sophomore at SCSU called telling him of the incident. His daughter seemed a little nervous and concerned, but his presence and calm offered some comfort, he said.

A 1982 SCSU graduate, Allen said he feels some sadness in many respects, but mostly a sense of helplessness. As unfortunate as it may be, the shooting is not unique to the SCSU campus, Allen said. Other schools have experienced the same thing.

Individuals come to the campus with extra baggage, Allen said, but that can’t deter the institution from continuing its mission. He said he has no reservations or concerns about his daughter’s safety and confidently drove her back to school Sunday.

SCSU Board of Trustees Chairman William Small said he’s talked with other students. Small said they admirably spoke of their confidence that the institution will move forward despite the crisis' it faces.

“This is a real tragedy for the families involved, the SCSU family and the community,” he said. “That our students feel reassured about where we’re going in the midst of this crisis and situation speaks admirably to the challenge all of us have to work harder to instill in our young people a sense of value in themselves and others.”

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