A new vice president has been hired by South Carolina State University’s new interim president, Dr. Cynthia Warrick, but several trustees questioned whether she properly consulted the board before making her decisions.
Acting Chairman John Corbitt confirmed at a special called board meeting on Monday that a new vice president of academics and an associate vice president of finance have been hired, but did not release their names.
Warrick, who was not at the meeting, said later that she will issue a press release next week after she notifies the board about the rest of her appointees.
It would be unfair to give the information to the media before releasing it to the trustees, she said.
Corbitt told the board that “only two people have been committed to at this point, a vice president of academic affairs and associate vice president for finance,” he said. “Other people have been interviewed, but no other commitment has been made to anyone except those two people.”
He said he’d asked the president to read the bylaws. They list the responsibilities of the board and the president, he said.
“I take these bylaws seriously. ... We ought to do our job and let her do her job,” Corbitt said.
The university’s bylaws state that the president is to “consult with the Board of Trustees on the appointments of all administrators of the university having the rank of vice president.”
Corbitt said the board needed to further define what is meant by “consult.”
In the past, the president has selected candidates for these positions and sent their resumes to the board, he said.
Dr. Andrew “Hugine did this and Dr. (George) Cooper sent us the resumé for candidates for vice president — give us a reasonable time to look at it, and if we don’t object, then silence has given consent,” Corbitt said.
Trustee Anthony Grant said the board needs to forget what has gone on in the past.
“We’ve got a new board here, and what happened back then isn’t necessarily what I’d like to see as a board member now,” he said. “In my opinion, consult means consult, and that doesn’t just mean send around a resumé. We need to get feedback, need consensus.”
Trustee Patricia Lott said she’d expressed her concerns several times to the board chair and had asked for the special meeting to be called.
“I did discuss my concern,” she said. “I did follow protocol by speaking with the board chairman on more than one occasion about my concerns.”
Trustees went into executive session shortly after the meeting convened.
Warrick was not at the meeting and trustee Dr. Walt Tobin asked why she was not there, noting that the president is usually invited into executive session.
He asked if she was going to be discussed during the closed session, but no answer was forthcoming.
The Times and Democrat reporter asked what personnel matter would be considered during the meeting and if Warrick would be under discussion. Corbitt responded that Lott had asked for the meeting and he didn’t know what would be under consideration by the board.
Lott said she didn’t feel it was her place to respond to the media.
Following a closed session of about 20 minutes, the board reconvened and Corbitt called for a motion to go back into executive session “to discuss a path forward for the president, and we will invite her to come into the meeting.”
However, the trustees had not seen Warrick’s plan and were unable to reach a consensus on how to define what could be discussed in executive session.
Grant made a motion to go into executive session to talk more specifically to the president about her plan to provide clarification about the direction the board gives her in terms of her plan.
However, trustee Robert Waldrep said he was concerned that the flexibility of the motion would not satisfy the Freedom of Information Act.
“When you speak about a path or something, there’s nothing specific that we’re talking about here,” he said.
Grant said Waldrep’s point was well taken.
“I want to make certain that we are compliant to the full extent of the law and that we don’t give the impression that we’re trying to be nebulous and that there’s ... some meeting that’s not quite defined in terms of the purpose,” Grant said.
Lott then called for the meeting to be dismissed. The next board meeting will be held on Aug. 7.
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