Winthrop is our regional university and what happens there affects the business, governmental and social health of our region.
Winthrop’s progress was set back by the misjudgment of ousted President Jamie Comstock Williamson, who tried to violate South Carolina’s nepotism rules by encouraging the hiring of her husband for a staff position. As head of a public institution, Williamson clearly violated the good judgment needed for a person at that level of leadership.
Our growing urban region needs the underpinning that an urban university can provide in terms of faculty expertise, research and political, economic and social service advice. Many of those services have been provided in recent years. Now is not the time to lessen those contributions by faculty and staff leaders.
Perhaps the institution’s name should be altered to make it clear that Winthrop is a state university, not a private college. Perhaps it should be Winthrop State University, or some variation of that name, even though South Carolina has several public institutions whose names sound much like those of private colleges. Even Clemson is sometimes mistaken for a private university because of the name. It happens elsewhere as well – Rutgers in New Jersey, for example.
Because of the substantial state financial underpinning of its institutions, there should be no question about the public governance of such a valuable resource.
So, what is the next step? Universities are able to call on several notable organizations that help in the identifying and screening of potential university presidents. Now is the time for Winthrop trustees to seek out the best available potential presidents. Our state and region require no less.