It is Time for a Change in Leadership at South Carolina State

Plummeting enrollment at South Carolina State University has forced the school into a $3 million shortfall, and will result in a reduction of staff and services to help the school balance its budget.

Officials addressed the issues during a recent meeting of the university’s board of trustees. From the Times & Democrat:

“We have noticed a reduction in out-of-state students, said SCSU Admissions Director Stacy Sowell. “That has gone down by about 100 students every year, and that also correlates to budget shortfalls and travel. But there are some other methods for recruiting out-of-state students other than actually physically going to recruit those students,” she said.

The news follows clear evidence developed over the last two years of the state creating policy to limit out-of-state recruitment and enrollment, and SCSU being among South Carolina’s most aggressive institutions in following the new guidance towards its own demise.

An April 2018 report showed just how dramatically South Carolina State went away from out-of-students enrollment, while in-state student enrollment had stagnated. Months later, SCSU President James Clark took blame for the school’s lack of a master plan on facilities and enrollment management.

It has been just over three years since Clark, one of SCSU’s former legislatively-picked board members was named as permanent president and crowned his appointment with a screaming condemnation of university faculty and staff. Since then, the school has annually promoted a positive outlook on enrollment only to fall short of expectations and much-needed millions.

It’s easy to forget that legislators wanted to shut SCSU down in 2015, and that those same lawmakers fired the university’s board and replaced it with handpicked operatives who eventually named one of their own as its chief executive officer.

How hard is it to take a conspiracist’s view of the last three years as a slow dismantling of a flagship public HBCU, when we know that it is a direct reflection of what state power brokers wanted all along — a closed South Carolina State University?

That view isn’t hard to imagine, but it is only trumped by the idea that students, alumni and faculty have allowed the assault from within to plague the school and its future. Their silence in the face of destruction places them with as much blame for the school’s struggles than the intentional disruption levied by legislators and their trustees.

Maybe everyone outside of Orangeburg can make it easier on them; James Clark needs to be removed as president. And if stakeholders can’t make that happen, they should know that what was started in 2015 will be finished in earnest before they know it.