U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn says he will continue supporting his alma mater South Carolina State in the aftermath of the university’s board ousting President James Clark on Tuesday morning.
Speaking later Tuesday afternoon prior to his town hall meeting in Santee, the 6th District congressman said, “Look, I don’t know. I understand that the vote was 10-3. That’s a pretty significant vote, and so it seems to me that people feel that it may be time for a new direction in leadership.”
Clyburn said his focus will be on the institution.
“I’m going to support the school no matter what they do. I know the chairman of the board very well, I know some other members of the board, I know a lot of the faculty over there. I’m going to do everything I can in Washington to support the school,” Clyburn said.
State government should be doing the same, Clyburn said, citing the university’s transportation center.
“That school means a lot to me, and I think when you look at the fact that we have only one public HBCU in this state, the state needs to make a bigger commitment to that school,” Clyburn said.
“I’m going to support the school,” Clyburn said. “I did that years ago when we tried to enhance the mission of the school with one of the transportation centers that was being created in the transportation building we passed that year. The state never put up the matching money.”
“I did see in your paper, they talked about the state appropriating $3 million to be matching for another $11 million of federal money. That $11 million was sitting up there in Washington for 15 years,” Clyburn said.
“It’s been up there that long, back when all the foolishness was written about the money missing at the school. The money was never missing at the school, the money never got to the school.”
Recently, S.C. State announced that is has set aside at least $8 million for facility and campus improvements during the 2021-22 school year, including a $2.6 million match for $11 million in improvements at the transportation center, named for Clyburn. The university is also seeking an additional $2 million.
The university’s original plan, which was formulated prior to 2015, was to construct an $80 million transportation and research and conference center. The university was federally designated as a University Transportation Center at the time but lost that designation.
The scope of S.C. State’s project -- which initially included amenities such as a multilevel parking garage, hotel and restaurant -- was scaled back, along with funding, with the university’s loss of the UTC designation.
“I just hope that we will stop some of this foolishness and think about what that school means to this community, what it means to this state,” Clyburn said.
“You’ve got an institution over that there that has produced 23 general officers of color. Now, it’s changed now, but the time I came through there, we were producing more Black general officers than West Point,” Clyburn said.
“So, you know, I guess the board decided to make a change. How could you be losing enrollment at that school? Doesn’t make sense to me,” Clyburn said.
Clark was under fire from trustees, alumni and SCSU supporters over enrollment, which state government reports show fell by 43% from 4,300 to 2,500 from 2011 to 2019.
In March, the university’s faculty senate voted “no confidence” is Clark, with enrollment declines and pandemic response as factors.
Clark was named S.C. State's 12th president in 2016 after serving a one-year stint on a seven-member interim board appointed by the South Carolina legislature to help the university out of financial difficulties. The S.C. State trustees unanimously approved a new contract with Clark in November 2020.
But the trustees voted 10-3 on Tuesday to remove Clark as president. Retired U.S. Army Col. Alexander Conyers was tapped to serve as acting president until further action by the board is taken. Conyers, an S.C. State graduate, was named by Clark as vice president for strategic alliances and initiatives in May.
Clark’s attorney on Tuesday said the ousted president will explore legal options related to wrongful firing.
The board at Tuesday's meeting cited Clark's violation of Section 7.1 of his employment contract as reason for termination, but was not specific. According to the contract, the section cites gross negligence in the performance of his duties that materially harms the university; felonious and fraudulent acts that involve material dishonesty or fiduciary breach; a formal indictment; and repeated failure to perform duties.
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