The Daily Gamecock

USC board of trustees governs university, sets long-term agenda

<p>FILE—Mack I. Whittle speaks to the board during a meeting on June 10, 2022 at the Pastides Alumni Center. The board of trustees makes important decisions for the university and works to uphold its goals and standards.&nbsp;</p>
FILEā€”Mack I. Whittle speaks to the board during a meeting on June 10, 2022 at the Pastides Alumni Center. The board of trustees makes important decisions for the university and works to uphold its goals and standards. 

The board of trustees serves as the University of South Carolina's governing body. The board's job is to further the university's long-term goals and to assure the institution is meeting the needs of all of the stakeholders at the university such as students and faculty.

Its voting members consist of South Carolina's governor (or the governor's designee), the state's superintendent of education, the president of USC's Alumni Association and 17 more members, including one from each of the state's 16 judicial circuits and one at-large member appointed by the governor. 

The 16 members representing the state's judicial circuits are elected by South Carolina's state legislature and each member serves a term of four years. The board acts in accordance with state law as well as a set of bylaws and other standardized procedures. It is ultimately accountable to the South Carolina General Assembly and the public.

The duties of the board include defining the role and scope of the university system, establishing general policies for the university, approving the institution's budget each fiscal year and laying out the university's education program.

The board also includes multiple non-voting members such as the student body president and the chair of the university's faculty senate.

"We're called on to provide input from the perspective of our constituents," Audrey Korsgaard, the chair of USC's faculty senate, said. "When they're deliberating or hearing reports or things like that on issues that would be pertinent to the student experience, or to the academic operations or research operations of the university, they would call on us to discuss that."

In almost all instances, the board members do not perform the legwork of researching issues and solutions. 

"I would say most of the time, they are authorizing decisions," Korsgaard said. "They don't do the research and generate the potential solutions themselves. They delegate that to others to do that work."

For high-level decisions, the board has more direct input like when hiring an athletic director or contracting for the construction of a new building. In those instances, an internal committee is usually formed where solutions are looked at more in-depth.

Some big decisions the board has made in recent years include the buyout of football coaches and the hiring of former USC President Robert Caslen. Both of these decisions led to the board being under intense scrutiny from state lawmakers. In the beginning of 2022, a bill to shrink the board and reset all of its incumbent members died in the Senate.

The Daily Gamecock requested to speak with the board members to learn about their personal experiences on the board but none granted the request.

Reedy Newton, USC's student body president, said it has been enlightening and educational to sit on the board of trustees as a non-voting member.

"When I'm able to provide insight on topics, it is always heartwarming to know that members of the board seek out student feedback," Newton said.

Newton said she has been able to provide insight on student issues like assuring the incoming freshman class will have an adequate number of beds.

"I honestly believe that I am taken seriously," Newton said. "I've taken it seriously and I appreciate the board's willingness to hear the student concerns and the willingness to invite a student to the table."

Students have also been advocating to have a student on the board who acts as a voting member. USC's new president, Michael Amiridis, previously served as chancellor of the University of Illinois-Chicago. The University of Illinois board of trustees has multiple student voting members. Newton said she hopes to discuss adding a student voting member to the board with Amiridis.

"I look forward to having these conversations with President Amiridis," Newton said. "I'm excited to open the door to that conversation when he arrives."