Lawmakers considering changing up USC Board of Trustees membership

One bill would shorten the board's membership from 20 down to 11

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — In the wake of last week’s presidential vote at the University of South Carolina, several lawmakers are bringing forward bills that can change the make-up of the board.

Senator Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland County) says the time has come to take a close look at how effective the board really is.

“This is not the way one should run a major, multi-billion dollar corporation. I don’t believe any Fortune 500 company would have done it this way,” Sen. Harpootlian said. 

The University of South Carolina has one of the largest governing boards among state universities in South Carolina. The membership consists of the Governor, Superintendent of Education, President of the USC Alumni Association, one member representing each of the state’s 16 judicial districts, and one at-large member selected by the Governor.

For perspective, most of the other state universities have boards that range from 11 members to 20. 

A bill sponsored by Senator Harpootlian alongside Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee County) and Sen. Darrell Jackson (D-Richland County) would reduce the size of the board from 20 members to 11, making it one of the smallest in the state. 

The new board, if passed, would include the three ex-officio members, as well as seven members from each of the state’s Congressional districts, as well as an at-large member appointed by the Governor.

“I think smaller boards will make better decisions. I think there will be more accountability and I think there will be more transparency,” said Sen. Harpootlian. 

A spokesman with Governor Henry McMaster’s (R-South Carolina) office says if the bill in its current form landed on the Governor’s desk, he would most likely sign it into law. 

Representative Chip Huggins (R-Lexington County) says he will vote in favor of the bill, but he says it’s important to note a board of its size was able to reach a decision.

“I think it’s a much more manageable board. It certainly puts it in line with other boards that seem to do well. But a board of 22 members was able to make a decision, a good decision in my opinion,” Rep. Huggins said.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford (D-Richland County) says he will file a bill that would remove the Governor from his post as ex officio chair of the board.

Huggins says it would not be a good idea to take the Governor off the board.

But at the end of the day, Harpootlian says reducing the size of the board is just one step at making a difference.

“I think we need to take a hard look at how the board of this institution is handling the public’s assets, it’s the public’s money. It’s not the University of South Carolina’s money. It’s the taxpayer’s money,” Harpootlian said.

The Senate Education Subcommittee will be discussing the bill at a special meeting on August 20. 

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