Haley meets with SCSU leaders to solve problems

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH)--South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is taking the growing problems at South Carolina State University into her own hands.

The governor welcomed SCSU board members to the state house Friday; hoping to find a solution to help the school recover from many controversies over the last two years.

Haley said the change starts at the top.

"Open up your board meetings," Haley said. "Let people see what you talk about. If there are politics involved; which I feel like there is a lot right now; open that up. Because if you can't discuss it publicly, it should not be discussed."

In March 2012, former President George Cooper resigned after firing eight employees; citing a failure to follow university rules and procedures. But Cooper offered no further explanation.

In January 2013, former Board Chairman Jonathan Pinson, along with the school's police chief, were indicted on federal charges involving a financial kickback scheme. Pinson is accused of trying to sell the school land from a Florida developer in exchange for personal gifts. Pinson has maintained his innocence, while the former police chief pled guilty.

SC State has also lost millions of dollars from the school's budget to overcome other deficits. Enrollment has steadily declined; and two other board members have since resigned.

"It is a difference in philosophy," current Board Chairman Walter Tobin said. "But all these people are interested in one thing; the benefit of the university. I think we are working toward that. Hopefully, a year from now, they will say 'Boy you are doing well down there'".

Tobin said a 50% budget cut has hurt SC State more than other schools because they do not have as many wealthy boosters contributing money as other universities. Other members added that a lack of leadership, integrity, and personal agendas contributed to the school's struggles.

But Haley said funding is based on how many students there are, economic development, and accountability.

"The state has to be able to trust you to be able to put those resources there," Haley said. "They have not been as hard on you as they have other universities that have had trouble. I don't want you to think you are the only one."

The governor promised to do everything she can to help SC State become a great, flagship school again; as long as board members have nothing to hide. It is a challenge Tobin is confident in. He said the board has been looking for a permanent president over the last year; and a decision is expected to be announced in May.

"We need permanent leadership on our campus," Tobin said. "We have some financial and recruitment issues. But I think we are headed in the right direction."