- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - An attorney who has sued alleging South Carolina still operates a segregated system of higher education is asking a federal court to add financially troubled South Carolina State University as a defendant in the case.

Current and former SC State students sued both the state and the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education in February saying duplication of the university’s programs at other public universities has hurt the Orangeburg school’s enrollment and finances. The suit alleges that if white students can take the courses elsewhere, they are not likely to attend the state’s only historically black public university.

Orangeburg attorney Glenn Walters filed a motion in federal court in Columbia on June 30 seeking to add the university as a defendant. Walters had earlier said he would have liked the university in the suit as a plaintiff bolstering the argument the school doesn’t get adequate money from the state.

The debt at the financially troubled school is estimated to be about $24 million. Lawmakers earlier this year removed SC State’s board of trustees and a new board was put in place.

Walters said Tuesday that he did not approach the new board about joining as a plaintiff because it was unlikely newly-appointed members would turn around and then sue the state.

Having the university as a defendant “strengthens the students’ case because what they will now allege is there was malfeasance on the part of the administration of the school and there was malfeasance on the part of the Legislature and by the Commission on Higher Education,” Walters said.

Walters said there may be a hearing on his motion and that attorneys for the university would not be served with the lawsuit unless the school is added as a defendant.

A school spokeswoman did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a special mediator to recommend a remedy for what it calls a segregated higher education system.

Attorneys for the state and the commission responded to the lawsuit saying South Carolina was required decades ago to dismantle its segregated system of higher education. They say the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights determined in 1988 the desegregation efforts complied with federal law.

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