Bill to fire Univ. of SC trustees is on House’s fast track

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A proposal to fire all trustees from the University of South Carolina board has been put on a fast track by the South Carolina House a week after a hearing where lawmakers didn’t hide their anger about spending and what they felt is interference in daily affairs.

Speaker Jay Lucas introduced the bill and requested it skip committee and head directly to the House floor Tuesday. It could be heard before a key legislative deadline at the end of the week that might make it harder to pass.

The bill cuts the number of voting members from 20 to 13 and kicks all trustees off the board at the end of June 2023. It also redraws the districts for the trustees. Lawmakers would elect one from each of the state’s seven U.S. House districts and four at-large seats while assuring a trustee comes from each county where the University of South Carolina has a campus.

Currently trustees are picked from the state’s 16 judicial districts.

Current board members could run for the new seats, but would have to go through the entire vetting and election process.

The governor would continue to choose his two at-large trustees, but could no longer choose to be chairman of the Board of Trustees.

The urgency behind the bill came from five hours of hearings last week where lawmakers grilled five current trustees on a divisive presidential search where trustees made a secret plane trip to see a candidate and the governor got involved and threatened the school’s accreditation, sexual harassment lawsuits and close to $20 million paid to fire coaches in high-profile sports.

Lucas was a member of a screening committee that refused to nominate the trustees for new terms at a March 29 meeting.