Opposing letters to the editor in the Orangeburg, SC-based Times and Democrat paint a vastly different picture of how alumni of South Carolina State University feel about the direction of the institution, and its future.
Last week, SCSU National Alumni Association President John Funny commended the university’s board of trustees for stabilizing and calling for alumni to rise above the controversy of board chairman describing the lack of applications for new trustees as people avoiding the “mud hole.”
Funny also called for current board members to be retained by state legislature, while other supporters can fill out its remaining vacant seats.
And finally, while we currently have a board that has worked extremely well and hard, I want to thank them for their service, leadership and commitment to SCSU. Additionally, I would urge the state legislators to retain as many as possible of the current board members for consistency and gradually increase the board until all board positions are filled. I would also encourage everyone to consider serving in this role for our beloved South Carolina State University.
But other alumni are challenging the support for the current board. In today’s edition, SCSU alumnus Porter Bankhead accuses the trustees and president James Clark of reducing the school’s academic rigor and failing to enact plans for comprehensive fundraising.
The recent near-shutdown of the university was a wake-up call to alumni, the public, and government officials. It is not clear what guidance or mandate was directed by the Legislature to a state board at South Carolina State University, but no strategic plan has been developed or made public as sought by alumni.
A key concern is to return the university to its top status in the state and as a leading historically black college and university in the nation. The thought of the university being a restricted university limited in the scope of its academics hurts funding efforts across the board from alumni, the public and business.
The board cut more than $19 million from the school’s annual budget in 2015, which eliminated more than 30 faculty and staff positions, reduced the school’s scholarship support funds, and reduced the school’s facility and operational budget. Total fundraising for that year exceeded $5 million.
In 2016, iconic former NBA player and philanthropist Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson committed to raising $2.6 million scholarships for the university.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson has never shied away from philanthropic opportunities, so it was no surprise when the NBA Hall of Famer and entrepreneur partnered with South Carolina State University to raise money for a scholarship in his name, the first in the university’s history.