Senate committee starts discussions on bill to shrink UofSC Board of Trustees

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- The controversial selection of the new president at the University of South Carolina may lead to a shakeup on the Board of Trustees.

A senate education subcommittee is now reviewing a bill that would reshape the university’s board.

Senator Harvey Peeler addressed the small group of senators first. Peeler is also the sponsor of the bill up for debate.

The bill was filed before the presidential search, but Peeler said “it was embarrassing the way they did it. It was quite embarrassing. It was a public embarrassment.”

The bill, S.798, shrinks the size of the board from 20 members to 11.

“Malfunction junction has moved from I-26/ I-20 to the boardroom at USC,” continued Peeler.

Right now, the board is made up of the governor, plus one of his appointees, the state superintendent, and the alumni president. There is also one member for each of the state’s 16 judicial circuits. This bill would shift to a member from each of the state’s seven congressional districts instead.

“USC could very well be our next Santee Cooper. And I think the first thing would be to shrink the board so you don’t have 20 different voices but half that talking about important issues,” explained Senator Dick Harpootlian, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Three others, including a former employee and alumni, echoed the senators’ concerns at the meeting.

Marie-Louise Ramsdale was the student body president at USC in the late 1980s. She expressed her frustration with the board’s recent vote and the composition of the board.

“This board does not represent South Carolina this board does not represent different interests, different careers,” said Ramsdale.

The board chair, along with several other members of the board of trustees, were at the meeting. The chair explained to the subcommittee how shrinking its size could limit representation.

“This would then constitute the smallest board that this legislature has chosen to enact with by far the largest student body,” said John von Lehe.

This bill only applies to the University of South Carolina, but members say the boards at other colleges and universities should also be reviewed.

Senator Peeler says right now, some judicial circuits have 700,000 people while others have 100,000.

A former employee, who testified at the meeting, also told lawmakers there are two lawsuits against the university’s board for the presidential search.


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