Final CofC candidate questions objectives of MUSC merger

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The phrase "Know Thyself" is scrawled in Greek above the entrance to the oldest municipal college in America -- the College of Charleston. And this week, the college is getting closer to knowing who its next president will be with presidential finalists visiting the campus.

"People are eager to know who the next president will be," said College of Charleston faculty member and Director of African American studies, Dr. Consuela Francis. "So the search process has been going on for months, there is a lot of rumors for all sorts of things, and what people are most anxious about is let's have this process be done."

It's been a long process where just three finalists remain in the pick for president.

Friday marks Provost Martha Saunders' turn. Saunders has held various academic posts at Southern Mississippi, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and University of West Florida, among others.

Saunders was the last candidate to answerquestions about the proposed merger between the College of Charleston and the Medical University.Saunders told faculty and students their questions led her to ask onequestion:{}what is the goal of the proposed merger?

"I think that there is certainly a lot of concern and alot of interest and a lot of unanswered questions about the goals and theobjectives of the merger. My questions are many," she said.

Saunders says she wants to know what problem themerger will solve. She told the crowd she doesn't have an answer to theirquestions about the proposed merger.

"It's important to me, and it's always been a professionalgoal of mine, to make sure that I leave a place better than what I found it. Andyou do that by building leadership and leaving them behind," Saunders said.

Saunders told students she's filled every office inhigher education, and many times was the first woman to fill that role.{}

On Thursday, the campus community met with the second and probably highest-profile candidate. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell is familiar with the campus as a former student, but a lot of faculty members felt he wasn't familiar enough with academia to lead the school.{}

"Your actual arrival would and I think most of us might agree, would create a huge wound," said one faculty member during the open session.{}

Harsh comments and tought questiosn comes from CofC's faculty, and they didn't mince words.{}

"Why would you want to come here if you're going to create a wound just by the simple act of coming? And secondly, if you still were to come how would you deal with that?" asked another.{}

The big concern was that McConnell lacks academic leadership experience. But McConnell cited his undergraduate degree from the College, a law degree, and many years of public service qualify his to lead his alma mater.

He admitted that filling the seat in the president's office would be a challenge, but insisted he was the best choice.{}

Before McConnell, Dr. Dennis "Jody" Encarnation of Harvard University toured the college Wednesday.

On Wednesday,{}Encarnation fielded tough questions from faculty and students about a proposed merger between CofC and the Medical University of South Carolina.{}

Encarnation{}says the word merger does have negative connotation. He told the crowd he's in favor of partnerships and is always looking for opportunities to make the whole worth more than the sum of it's parts. He suggest right now is not the time for a merger.{}

"Language matters and we need to prove to each institution that together we can create value, and that value is greater than what we would create by ourselves. If we cannot prove that no amount of forced legislation going to create that value," he said. {}

Encarnation also fielded questions about increasing diversity and how he would work with the state legislature.

"There's a lot of change in the air and as when there is a lot of change there is a lot of nerves and trying to find sort of the sure-footing," Dr. Francis said.

Each candidate is set to meet and interview with faculty, students, alumni and the public while on campus this week.

Dr. Francis says she is excited about the opportunity to meet face to face with her potential future boss.

"It is important that faculty, students, and staff show up to the interviews with the candidates and ask them very directly whatever it is you want to know about these candidates backgrounds, visions for the college, so that when we are asked our opinion we can give the most informed opinion possible."

College of Charleston public information officials say we may not know who the new President is until the end of March or beginning of April. The Board of Trustees is set to meet at the end of the month and interview all three candidates before making their final selection.