Opinion Extra

S.C. State Board Chair: Pending legislation could threaten accreditation

gmelendez@thestate.com

Although some board members have resigned, the six remaining S.C. State trustees are trying to protect the university’s accreditation, by ensuring that we remain in compliance with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges’ core requirement 2.2, which states that “The institution must have a governing body of at least five members and the board is not controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or interests separate from it.”

It is ironic that the Legislature that is trying to get rid of S.C. State trustees now actually needs us to remain just a little longer, so the institution can maintain its accreditation until new board members are named. We care for the faculty and students who matriculate and work at this institution. Although we thought about it, we can’t all just walk away, no matter how rough it gets.

That’s not the only accreditation requirement the Legislature needs to keep in mind.

Comprehensive Standard 3.2.5 states that “The governing board has a policy whereby members can be dismissed only for appropriate reasons and by a fair process.” Yet S.C. State’s board was never given a reason for the Legislature’s pending wholesale dismissal; nor was the process fair. Most of the present board members have no knowledge of years of underfunding or the reasons or causes for the deficits, although we all can see the consequences. These board members, who are lawyers, school superintendents, former university administrators, bankers and business owners, wanted to help, yet we are being summarily dismissed.

Furthermore, if the board is appointed by selected people, then each board member will be tied to, and potentially influenced by, the person who appointed them. That could violate Comprehensive Standard 3.2.4, which states, “The governing board is free from undue influence from political, religious, or other external bodies and protects the institution from such influence.”

Lastly, some of the legislation under debate calls for the administration and the board to make daily decisions about the university’s operations. But Comprehensive Standard 3.2.6 requires “a clear and appropriate distinction, in writing and practice, between the policy-making functions of the governing board and the responsibility of the administration and faculty to administer and implement policy.” This means the accrediting organization will not approve of a board that is involved with the daily operations of the university. This job belongs to the administration. Board members make policy; the administration and faculty implement policy.

We appreciate that a new board will help the university to move forward. However, the standards must be adhered to, and placed at the forefront of all decision-making if S.C. State is to remain an accredited, degree-granting institution.

Gail Joyner-Fleming

Acting Chair, S.C. State University Board of Trustees

Charleston

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