Education

January 23, 2013

Bill aims to remove SC State trustees

A state representative wants to replace all but one of the SC State University trustees on July 1 -- a move that could threaten the school's accreditation.

A state representative wants to replace all but one of the S.C. State University trustees on July 1 -- a move that could threaten the school's accreditation.

The state's only public historically black university has faced declining enrollment, budget deficits and board turmoil -- including the indictment of a former trustee on kickback charges this month.

S.C. Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, introduced a bill Wednesday to replace 12 of 13 S.C. State trustees at once. The General Assembly will elect replacements with staggered terms of one to four years. The governor's appointment to the board will remain.

"Reconstituting the board of trustees quickly and transparently will go a long way towards protecting S.C. State's proud tradition of achievement," Sellers said. "Failing to do so will only allow the questions and concerns surrounding it to continue until there is nothing left to protect."

Sellers said in a statement that he was trying to protect the school's accreditation. but his bill could threaten it.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools President Belle Wheelan repeated her concerns raised from a similar bill introduced last year that not following state law to remove board members could threaten the school's accreditation. The bill must state reasons why board members are being fired, she said.

"You're innocent until proven guilty," Wheelan said.

Sellers said in an interview that he would add the necessary language when the bill reaches a subcommittee.

Legislation that would have replaced some or all S.C. State trustees failed last year.

S.C. State leaders went before a House budget committee on Wednesday, where they were met by questions of the school's handling of recent controversies. Some subcommittee members suggested the school show that its finances are in order before making additional requests.

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