COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - UofSC’s Board of Trustees have made a decision concerning the next president of the university after meeting Friday morning at the university’s Alumni Center. The meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m.
The Board has voted in favor of retired Lt. General Robert Caslen as the next president of the University of South Carolina after much controversy.
A lot has happened leading up to Friday’s meeting. The Board of Trustees was initially scheduled to meet last Friday, but one board member complained that the meeting violated state law because not enough notice was given. A judge agreed and the meeting was canceled, which also put off the scheduled vote for Caslen.
Gov. McMaster recently expressed his confidence in Caslen being voted in as the next president saying that,"General Caslen is precisely what we need at the University of South Carolina, right now. He is a nationally recognized leader. I think he’s going to win the vote".
Many faculty members and students and alumni were outside of the boardroom holding signs as they waited for the board’s decision. Some of them were visibly upset as the decision came down.
“There’s still more to be done,” said UofSC assistant professor Bethany Bell. “There’s restricting of the Board of Trustees. Do an investigation into how deep this political influence really was.”
While some were not happy with the decision, others supported the vote.
“This was a great day and the process is secondary to content and substance,” Ray Moore said. “In terms of content and substance, we got the best person.”
The ongoing search has brought a lot of attention to the school recently. This week, outgoing president, Harris Pastides, received a letter from the agency responsible for the school’s accreditation. The letter questions if there has been undue influence.
The presidential search also raised concerns of alums and supporters of the university.
Darla Moore sent a letter to board chairman John von Lehe regarding the presidential selection process.
“As the largest donor to the university and the namesake of one of the largest schools with a broad national reputation, I’m making a final appeal to the Board to reject the rank political influence in selecting the next President,” Moore wrote. “Notwithstanding the political nature of the Board, the university is an institution of higher learning and the surest way to extinguish its integrity is to politicize it.”
Protesters gathered outside of the meeting awaiting the decision to be made while Trustees went into an executive secession to discuss the salary of the next president.
Many of the protesters were students, parents, faculty and alumni who were urging for transparency in the selection and search process for the new president according to Mayor Steve Benjamin.
Officials from SLED, State Troopers and USC PD were all on site of the meeting regarding the new university president search.
A motion to postpone the vote on Caslen indefinitely did not pass with a 11-9 vote. The motion to elect Caslen as the 29th president of the University of South Carolina passed with a vote of 11-8.
Protesters outside of the meeting showed their disapproval of the Board’s decision with loud chants of “shame, shame, shame” along with tears of disappointment.
Gov. Henry McMaster weighed in on the Board’s decision on Twitter stating, “The selection of General Robert Caslen as the next president of the University of South Carolina is a positive and transformative step forward for the future of the university and the state. I am confident that every student, alumnus, faculty member and citizen of this state will benefit from his superior leadership, vision and direction, which he has demonstrated throughout his remarkable career.”
A protest has been scheduled by students for Monday night as a reaction to the Board’s decision to elect Caslen.