Lawmakers consider bill that would make UofSC Board of Trustees smallest in the state

Published: Aug. 20, 2019 at 10:07 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Tuesday, lawmakers heard from members of the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees a few weeks after the controversial election of new UofSC President Bob Caslen.

A Senate Education Subcommittee held their first hearing on S.798. This piece of legislation would reduce the number of Trustees on the UofSC Board of Trustees.

The legislation was filed back in April, but lawmakers pointed to the handling of the Presidential search as another reason to examine the Board. Senator Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) said, “Malfunction Junction has moved from I-20 and I-26 to the boardroom of UofSC.”

Sen. Peeler said President Caslen has his full support but he was embarrassed by the Board’s handling of his selection. Sen. Peeler is a sponsor of S.798 along with Sen. Darrell Jackson (D-Richland) and Sen. Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland). “What I don’t support is choosing the Board of Trustees from within Judicial Circuits. It’s disproportionate. We have one Judicial Circuit that over 600,000 citizens and another with 100,000. That’s disproportionate.

Right now, an elected Trustee represents one of the 16 Judicial Circuits in South Carolina. The legislation would change to the 7 Congressional Districts instead. Reducing the number of Trustees from 20 to 11.

Board of Trustees Chairman John von Lehe said shrinking the Board could hurt diversity. “This would then constitute the smallest board that this legislature would enact for the largest student body.”

Other suggestions that were discussed Tuesday include electing two Trustees from each Congressional District, setting possible term limits for Trustees, and giving the student and faculty members on the board a vote. UofSC alum Marie-Louise Ramsdale said lawmakers need to consider some of these suggestions. “We wouldn’t be on the front page of the paper of things were going well with the governance of the University of South Carolina,” she said.

According to officials, the UofSC is the only major university in South Carolina that elects Trustees from Judicial Circuits rather than Congressional Districts.

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