We, for obvious reasons, have refrained from speaking publicly about our beloved alma mater’s current crisis, until now. We love South Carolina State University and have never been hesitant to “sing (her) praise(s) far and near.” We have always given to her cause religiously.
Many of you attended and contributed to the Galas in Columbia and Spartanburg that launched the James E. and Emily E. Clyburn Endowment for Archives and History at SCSU. Over the past 30 years we have hosted an annual golf tournament and “Bid Whist Luncheon” in Santee, and have donated all our honoraria to these causes. These activities have funded hundreds of need-based scholarships for college-bound students. These events and others have contributed over $1.2 million to the Archives and History Endowment and over $2 million in scholarships and aid to 1400 students attending SCSU and various other colleges and universities throughout South Carolina and the country. We have also endowed scholarships at Allen, Benedict, Claflin, Morris, MUSC, USC and Voorhees.
But today’s crisis is about more than giving, and bulldog tenacity is going to be required to survive. If SCSU were to close, we probably could find other appropriate entities to support, but that would not remove the stain or lessen the shame of closing South Carolina’s only state supported HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and University), although that state support has been tenuous to say the least. In fact, one might say, it has been much less than “minimally adequate.”
The economy, less than equitable state support, and dramatic cuts in state and federal student aid are making college education for blacks in South Carolina less attainable. The recent ad hominem attacks on SCSU and ill-conceived proposals for its future have sullied the school’s storied reputation and will further erode enrollment and undercut faculty and student recruitment. If, as we are told, 4300 students is the breakeven point, and SCSU’s current enrollment is 2900, immediate and dramatic action need to take place.
We believe several things need to occur:
1) A five to seven member governing board of retired executives and college presidents need to be installed to serve for a time certain, 18 – 24 months;
2) A highly qualified CEO who is committed to the mission and respects the legacy of HCBUs should replace the current president who has precious little support from alumni and supporters, and minimal credibility with those who determine the school’s funding and academic status;
3) The law regarding qualifications to serve on the Board of Trustees should allow - in addition to a member from each of the 7 Congressional Districts, a gubernatorial appointee and a Student Body representative - 4 at-large members regardless of state residency, two of which should come from recommendations by the National Alumni Association. (i.e. The Citadel)
Representatives from several out-of-state HBCUs have recently begun recruiting our best and brightest. If things continue along the current plane, the legislation to close the school will not be needed. There will not be enough students showing up in September to open the doors. Of course, that could be the aim of some legislators, and we are among those who believe that.
We will probably have more to say at the proper time. In the meantime, you can find a concise and precise history of this controversy - which we know to be manufactured and orchestrated - on pp 274 thru 278 of "Blessed Experiences, Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black.” Amazon.com readers rate books by stars from 1 to 5, and have given "Blessed Experiences" 5 stars. There is not one thing in the book that is not true. But, as you may surmise, there are a lot of truths that are not in the book.