Pastides unanimously voted in as UofSC interim president

Former president Harris Pastides is up for the position after Bob Caslen resigned May 13.
Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 1:00 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The University of South Carolina Board of Trustees met Friday morning to decide who should serve as the school’s interim president.

Bob Caslen resigned from the position May 13 amid controversy surrounding his commencement address.

Friday, May 21, the board unanimously voted to make former president Harris Pastides the interim president.

“I’m excited to serve in this interim role and look forward to helping the university through this transition,” Pastides said. “Despite change, our university will always remain focused on the mission of service to our students and the people of South Carolina. Now is the time for us to come together as one community to reaffirm our support of that important work.”

Trustees also determined who would serve on the search committee for the new university president. Those people include:

  • Eight voting members of the Board of Trustees, including Thad H. Westbrook, Alex English, Brian C. Harlan, Leah B. Moody, Emma W. Morris, C. Dorn Smith, Eugene P. Warr Jr. and Mack I. Whittle Jr. Westbrook will serve as search chair;
  • Five faculty members from the university system, including: Aiken Faculty Assembly chair (Alexandra Roach), chair of the Beaufort Faculty Senate (Jayne Violette), chair of the Columbia Faculty Senate (Mark Cooper), chair of the Upstate Faculty Senate (Lisa Johnson), chair of the Palmetto College Campuses Faculty Senate (Ernest Jenkins, Lancaster);
  • President of the USC Columbia Student Government Association (Alex Harrell);
  • Several non-voting advisors were appointed to the search committee to represent additional stakeholders and to provide valuable perspectives, including a representative from the UofSC Alumni Association (Robin Roberts), a representative of USC’s Foundations (James Bennett), community members (Lou Kennedy and David Seaton), a UofSC System staff representative (Lauren Smith) and the dean of the College of Engineering and Computing (Hossein Haj-Hariri);
  • By policy, the secretary of the university and of the Board of Trustees will staff the presidential search.

Board members said it would be an international search. They pledged “a fair and equitable process to identify a diverse pool of world-class candidates.”

Caslen announced his resignation May 12 with a statement that read in part:

“I am sorry to those I have let down. I understand the responsibilities and higher standards of senior-level leadership. When those are not met, trust is lost. And when trust is lost, one is unable to lead.”

Caslen previously offered to resign on Tuesday, May 11, but the university declined.

Pastides retired as UofSC president in July 2019 after serving in that capacity for more than 10 years.

He penned a letter to the university community and sent it out shortly after he officially became interim president. It reads:

Dear Carolina Family:

When I last wrote to you in the summer of 2019, I shared that it would be my final communication, after more than 40 messages sent during my time as university president. I didn’t imagine at that moment that I would be writing to you now, this time as Interim President of the University of South Carolina.

In that final eblast, I wrote about “moving on” – and how it’s not like the closing of a door, but rather the “opening of a window,” through which you can look back at fond memories. I have often looked through that window these past two years, sharing in the joy of your success as well as seeing the tumultuous experience of the pandemic.

Today, Patricia and I are filled with excitement as we prepare to return to our Carolina home. It’s our honor to serve the university at this important moment in its history as the search for the next university president begins. I encourage you to stay informed about this process and the committee’s work as it progresses.

In the coming days, I look forward to reconnecting with you and learning about how life has been for you. Know that I am here for you and that you can come to me with any concern, at any time. I’ve established a unique email address,, for you to ask your questions or to offer advice.

I also recognize that this period of transition can create even more questions. Many of you have reached out to ask: “What’s next?” One thing I’m sure of is that the best days are still ahead for the University of South Carolina, and I hope for every one of you. Mister Rogers said that, “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”

Gamecocks, the coming days will require us all to ask questions, to listen with our ears and our hearts, and to come together in unity as we begin this new chapter at the University of South Carolina.

I can’t wait to get started.

Harris Pastides

The search for a permanent president will be initiated immediately, trustees said Friday.

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