Members of the South Carolina State University National Alumni Association announced this afternoon a unanimous vote of no confidence in university president James Clark.
The announcement was made during a teleconference meeting held with stakeholders and media this afternoon by SCSU NAA President John Funny, who told attendees that the university had become “stagnant” under Clark’s leadership.
“We express our concern and disenchantment with the failings and weaknesses under the leadership of President Clark,” Funny said. “We must ensure that we have strong leadership, and the right leadership to ensure the continued growth and viability of South Carolina State University.”
Funny said that the association conducted an internal assessment and polling of its membership in recent months to gauge Clark’s performance in key areas of administration, including enrollment trends, fundraising, program expansion, and customer service.
Members expressed low satisfaction in these areas, along with the university’s progress in developing a master plan for housing, a lack of partnerships with corporate entities, and branding efforts, Funny said.
“Our university website is antiquated and unable to compete in the marketplace for students and engagement,” he said.
The no-confidence vote was revealed less than 24 hours after trustees announced a two-year extension of Clark’s contract, with an option for two additional years based upon performance metrics. Funny credited Clark for bringing energy to the university upon his appointment in 2016, just one year after being named to a legislature-appointed board picked to follow the firing of trustees in light of financial crisis and scandal involving board leadership.
Funny said that the association has formally notified the board of its vote, and has recommended a one-year extension for Clark with a national search to launch six months prior to his departure.
“Due to the situation of dealing with coronavirus, the association felt it is appropriate to continue his leadership during this time, and around November or December, we’re asking that the board initiate a national search for someone with skill, experience and ability to manage a large institution,” Funny said.
“We want someone who can show all of our stakeholders that we can excel in a great way. So this allows the board time to locate the right skill set to take us into the future.”
University Board Chair Rodney Jenkins issued a statement hours after the teleconference, affirming support for its decision.
“The South Carolina State University Board of Trustees, in keeping with the institution’s strategic plan, keeps its fiscal responsibility as our number one priority. We acknowledge and consider all feedback received from stakeholders. Yesterday’s executive session of the board included a four-hour discussion on the way forward as it pertains to the university’s leadership. This discussion resulted in a 9-1-2 vote in favor of a plan to offer a new contract to the current president with annual performance objectives that must be met. We believe this offers the university the opportunity to retain continuity of operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and also provides measurable targets that will ensure the long term sustainability and growth of the institution.”
“South Carolina State boasts more than 30,000 alumni around the world who are stellar representatives of the good work done at SC State and we appreciate all of our loyal sons and daughters. The Board of Trustees and the university look forward to engaging them as ambassadors working for the good of our students. We are proud to celebrate the support the university receives from a wealth of various other stakeholders who share our vision to achieve excellence.”