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Some SC State University faculty members calling for new leadership

The faculty senate recently voted 'no confidence' in President James E. Clark and Provost Luke Learie and called for them to be removed from their positions.

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Some faculty at the South Carolina State University are calling for a change in leadership. 

The university Board of Trustees plans to call a special board meeting Wednesday after the faculty senate voted that it has 'No Confidence' in the university's president James E. Clark and Provost Luke Learie. 

In a letter to the school's trustees, the faculty senate says:  "The Faculty of South Carolina State University asserts that President Clark and the Provost have failed the University, lost credibility, and proven to be unfit to hold their positions based on their actions."

They also outlined 14 issues with recent low enrollment numbers and a plan to return to campus during the pandemic as key items.

Credit: WLTX

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News19 reached out to the university president, who issued this statement:

"Over the past five years, SC State University has made remarkable progress. The institution has moved away from its financial challenges, and the threat of losing accreditation has been eliminated."

President Clark says he is seeking a $12-million investment from the Higher Education Subcommittee to fix enrollment and retention. Another unnamed faculty member supporting Clark questioned the faculty senate's method. 

That faculty member sent a letter to the board of trustees chairman, writing the following: "The protocol of the faculty senate requires that individual senators representing the various departments and colleges bring issues or matters before the senate to their various departments and colleges for discussion and debate. The final decision of such meeting is what the individual senator brings back to the Senate floor. Unfortunately, this was not done. A majority of chairs across campus indicate no meeting was held to discuss with faculty."

RELATED: SC State University will hold face-to-face graduation

The university said Provost Learie did not wish to issue a response at this time.

There is a discussion regarding employment, demotion, discipline, and other items during the executive session on the agenda for Wednesday's special meeting. SC State didn't confirm if it regarding the school's president or provost.

Below are the original statements from President Clark, the faculty senate, and the opposing faculty member.

President Clark:

Over the past five years, SC State University has made remarkable progress. The institution has moved away from its financial challenges, and the threat of losing accreditation has been eliminated. The University has finally come to a place where new relationships are being built, and collaborative initiatives are providing much-needed financial, governmental, developmental support that ultimately benefits our students. This is evident in accomplishments we celebrate, which include:

  •  A greater than $80M positive financial impact on the University over the last four years, including the highest amount of state appropriations per capita since 2007.
  • Three new state-of-the-art facilities (worth over $15M) including on campus in Orangeburg, at Camp Daniels in Elloree and the newest facility in Charleston. These are being followed by an additional four facilities around the state and a farm for our agriculture initiatives.
  • A return to online status of five residential halls that were previously closed due to disrepair.
  • Multiple "corporate" partnerships and collaborations that will yield over $25M, along with a significant number of internships and jobs for our students with several others underway.
  • A safe management of our campus in the midst of a COVID -19 pandemic.
  • A significant increase in partnerships and collaborations (e.g. 3+2 and Bridge programs) with academic institutions around the state.
  •  Prior to the onset of COVID-19 university was on track to have one of its best financial performances in nearly a decade.
  • During these times of COVID enrollment decreased but admitted students are now trending up by 20% for Fall 2021 semester.

I am committed to making sure that every student who comes to our campus is able to have access to the resources they need to graduate from college. I recognize that there will always be alternative opinions regarding the university’s direction, and we encourage the constructive input of our faculty.

It is clear that the vast number of faculty on our campus are supportive and proactive in continuing to propel SC State in a positive and successful direction.

Faculty Senate:

The AAUP Policy Document and Reports, 10th Edition, Statement on Governance of Colleges and Universities, page 138, states:

The president, as the chief executive officer of an institution of higher education, is measured largely by his or her capacity for institutional leadership. The president shares responsibility for largely by his or her capacity for institutional leadership. The president shares responsibility for the definition and attainment of goals, for administrative action, and for operating the communications system that links the components of the academic community. The president represents the institution to its many publics. The president’s leadership role is supported by delegated authority from the board and faculty. As the chief planning officer of an institution, the president has a special obligation to innovate and initiate. The degree to which a president can envision new horizons for the institution and can persuade others to see them and to work toward them, will often constitute the chief measure of the president’s administration.

President James Clark is the President of South Carolina State University (SCSU) and has served in his capacity since July 2016. In such capacity, President Clark is a fiduciary to SCSU and owes fiduciary duties of good faith, due care, honesty, and loyalty to the mission of the University. Mr. Clark occupies a position of the highest trust and confidence, and the utmost good faith is required in the exercise of the powers as President. President Clark is bound to act with fidelity and loyalty to SCSU and to subordinate personal interests to the interests of the Institution.

The Faculty of South Carolina State University asserts that President Clark and the Provost have failed the University, lost credibility, and proven to be unfit to hold their positions based on their actions.

In its role as the representative body of the Faculty constituency, the Faculty Senate has, via its Executive Committee, regularly addressed the following critical issues with President James Clark, yielding little to no progress. Thus, the Faculty has adopted the following position:

WHEREAS:

1. President Clark and the Provost have failed to implement an effective enrollment management plan and are presiding over the lowest enrollment numbers at SCSU in two decades. Enrollment has half of what it was eight years ago.

2. President Clark and the Provost have failed to create and implement a comprehensive plan for improving retention and graduation rates at SCSU in the past five years.

3. President James Clark and the Provost have failed to execute a plan in the past five years that removes SCSU from financial exigency. SCSU has been under financial exigency since June 15, 2015.

4. President Clark and the Provost have failed to secure major corporate cash donations in the past five years that would assist in removing the University from financial exigency.

5. President Clark and the Provost have failed to raise substantial unrestricted funds for the University that would assist in moving the University from financial exigency.

6. President Clark’s financial decisions demonstrate a clear disregard for financial responsibility and reality by giving his Cabinet members large, significant raises.

7. President Clark and the Provost have not assigned budgets to the Colleges and Departments in over two years.

8. President Clark and the Provost have failed to publish and disseminate an annual budget for the University as a whole in a blatant lack of transparency.

9. President Clark and the Provost have failed to present a strong vision or a strong strategic plan to move the University forward.

10. President Clark has suppressed the hiring of qualified administrators and faculty by refusing to instruct the Provost to follow the policies of shared governance and state law, thus limiting the growth of intellectual capacity within the Academy.

12. To consolidate power and suppress dissent, President Clark and the Provost have gone so far as to minimize shared governance by not accurately constituting University Standing Committees.

11. President Clark and the Provost have failed to prepare the Campus and to communicate such so that the Faculty feels safe returning to campus amidst the pandemic.

12. The President failed to give a State of the University Address regarding the return to campus during the Spring 2021 semester.

13. President Clark and the Provost have shown a lack of respect for the cultural significance of campus buildings by demolishing Manning, Bradham, and Mays I & II, with no plan to preserve the history or significance of those historic buildings.

14. The President has failed to produce a Master Plan for the University in the past five years.

FOR THESE AND OTHER REASONS:

WE, THE SOUTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY FACULTY, FIND NO CONFIDENCE IN PRESIDENT JAMES E. CLARK AND PROVOST LUKE LEARIE.

Opposing Faculty Member:

Dear Trustee Jenkins:

This letter is in response to the “no confidence letter ” on the President at South Carolina State University. There are some concerns with this letter and the process that was used. Most faculty were not aware of this vote until after the fact when the letter was circulated, so in our opinion, it does not represent the voice of the faculty as a whole. The protocol of the faculty senate requires that individual senators representing the various departments and colleges bring issues or matters before the senate to their various departments and colleges for discussion and debate. The final decision of such meeting is what the individual senator brings back to the senate floor. Unfortunately, this was not done. A majority of chairs across campus indicate no meeting was held to discuss with faculty.

We believe the perception of this letter jeopardizes University accreditation relationships, partnerships, and collaborations for funding and that have been established and proposed under the current administration. Some of the areas include:

  • Future enrollment
  • University and specialized accreditation
  • Business and industry partners such as Savannah River Site, Santee Cooper, Carnegie Mellon University, Dominion Energy, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Department of Energy, Battelle Savannah River Alliance, and others
  • $15M external funding such as NIH, DOE, USDA, DOE

Our goal is to move the University forward by highlighting many of the positive things that are happening at the university rather than focusing on the negative. The vote of the senate representatives should not be the personal vote of the individual, but the voice of the faculty. Therefore, a vote of 18 out of 192 cannot represent the voice of the faculty based on the process used.

Regrettably, some of the same individuals signing this resolution have made prior attempts to force out previous presidents dating back 10 or 15 years. We believe the overall goal of the University should be to move University forward by highlighting our excellent students, faculty, alumni, and programs. Faculty in Support of the University.