CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - An audit of The Citadel published by the South Carolina Legislative Audit Council Wednesday found multiple concerns with the school's Board of Visitors' diversity, inconsistencies in cadet discipline and questioned the compensation among high-level administrators.
During the audit, the council found that The Citadel's Board of Visitors violated the Freedom of Information Act and once met at a private, membership-only club.
In a response letter to the LAC, leaders with The Citadel said the council made a wrong conclusion.
"During its evening dinner on June 9, 2017… the Board did not intend to "discuss, decide, or receive information as a group on issues relating to the official business of" The Citadel, nor did it engage in any of those activities," the letter states. "Rather, members of The Citadel Board, their spouses, members of the school's administration, and their spouses dined together at The Carolina Yacht Club… In short, the event on June 9 was a social event, not a "meeting.""
The audit also determined cases involving cadet discipline were heard in different venues, a practice which the LAC couldn't find "any rationale" for.
Leaders with The Citadel said the school uses different venues as a way to remain flexible and give a quick response to the cadets involved.
Also regarding discipline hearings, the LAC described the appeals process as "cumbersome", noting that "no other governing board of a public university or four-year college in South Carolina, and the other five senior military colleges, hear appeals of student conduct or disciplinary matters.
"I think that cadets should be… the disciplinary board should handle all of those matters," said Catie Nitz who lives near The Citadel.
A chart in the report shows several changes to the BOV's involvement in disciplinary appeals between June 2009 and August 2011. Investigators said the board changed its role in the authority and appeals process while speculating that changes may have been made in reaction to certain discipline cases.
The council also recommended increased diversity among board members. The Citadel currently has 11 graduates of the school on the board, according to the audit, and the council suggested that number decrease to align with other public universities in South Carolina.
"It wouldn't be a bad idea to have a couple of influential but not political [people]," said Shirley Shepperd, whose husband attended The Citadel.
The council suggested:
"Increasing diversity on the Board, ensure equal geographic representation, and allow for the involvement of individuals who have vested interests in the institution but are not graduates of the college."
The issue of the makeup of the BOV was also used in a survey the LAC created.
All employees with The Citadel were talked to take part, however, only 451 out of more than 1,000 employees participated.
Data in the report states roughly 75% of faculty would prefer more diversity on the board. Meanwhile, a survey of current and past BOV members in the last ten years showed nearly 91% said the Board should be made up of graduates of The Citadel (Corps of Cadets or Graduate College).
The review also states that Lt. Gen General John Rosa, the Citadel president, had established his own rate of pay, including supplements from The Citadel Foundation.
Colonel John Dorrian, the Vice President of Communications and Marketing with The Citadel said that claim is inaccurate.
"The draft report makes brief mention of the president's total compensation, and it includes a partial identification of the elements of his compensation," leaders stated in a letter.
Documents supplied by the college in a response to the LAC, show Rosa had a state-paid salary just over $195,000 for the 2016-2017 school year. That salary is part of an $818,476 compensation package which includes a car stipend, insurance stipend, supplements from the Foundation and Trust, fringes (Medicare tax match, Dental insurance for employee, unemployment, etc), and benefits (House-rental value of the home, Utilities, Club expenses, etc).
The report also made numerous recommendations to the school which included a five-member disciplinary board of review and a condensed version of the rules governing the Corps of Cadets into a single document.
The school issued a nine-page response to the audit. A letter from Rosa to Legislative Audit Council Director John E. Powell said in part:
"The Citadel is proud of its mission to develop students to become principled leaders in all walks of life, and we are pleased with our progress in positioning the college for long-term success.We embrace the legislative process that has unfolded in this audit; indeed, thousands of our alumni have served and hundreds have sacrificed their lives to protect the freedoms that allow it."
Another smaller concern to note in the report was the mention of three employees who did not appear to meet minimum qualifications for their positions, including the current Provost.
Last week Provost Connie Book announced she would be returning to Elon University to serve as the school's ninth President.
Dorrian said Book's decision to leave her position at The Citadel had "nothing at all" to do with the report released by the LAC.
The report states the applicant must have a Ph.D. or another high-level degree from the college. The LAC determined that Book does have a Ph.D. in mass communications, but it was not offered at the college when she was hired, and still isn't offered now.
The brief mention of that requirement for the Provost position was just a small description of the role, Dorrian said.
"Book was and is extremely qualified for the Provost job," he added.