College of Charleston board selects McConnell as next pres

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- After a brief executive session Saturday afternoon, board members at the College of Charleston unanimously selected Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the next president of the college.

The decision was announced around 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

"We believe that Glenn McConnell is the best person to lead the College of Charleston, and we expect to quickly conclude the contract negotiations and formally introduce Lt. Gov. McConnell to the campus and the community," said Greg Padgett, chair of the Board of Trustees and chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

"I want to thank the members of the Board, the members of the Presidential Search Committee and the entire College of Charleston community for their thoughtful input into the selection of the next president."

Shortly after the announcement, Padgett held a press conference to discuss the decision by the Board of Trustees. He called McConnell a visionary and an experienced leader in the state.{}

"We're just excited and energized over the opportunity to have Lieutenant Governor as our next president," he said.{}

McConnell will meet with members of the campus soon to discuss the transition and to get everyone on the same page and involved, Padgett said.{}

McConnell's candidacy was hotly contested by members of the faculty, the student body, and local and state chapters of the NAACP. However, none of that appeared to matter when it came time to make a decision behind closed doors at the College.{}

The announcement that McConnell was being offered the position was met with the same anti-McConnell rhetoric. Beck Schillizzi said the decision was shocking.{}

"I really didn't want to believe that they were going to make him president. I didn't want to believe they were going to offer him this position," Schillizzi{}said.{}

Diversity has been a hot topic on the campus for years as members of the administration tried to find ways to create a more diverse student body.{}Schillizzi pointed to the lopsided demographics of the College compared to the city.{}

"I don't think he has what it takes to make this a more diverse student body. Only 6 percent of the students currently are black and if you look at the whole population of South Carolina, 30 percent are black," Schillizzi said.

Graduating senior Briosha Sanders said she was worried the selection would erode the progress being made by the College in diversity matters would erode.{}

"I've been seeing different offices working really hard to make some, to work on building trust within the community regardless of race, regardless of class," she said. "My biggest concern then, is if McConnell does accept the presidency that a lot of the progress we have been making will be set back. Set back decades."

Sanders cited a campus poll that said only 11 percent of the campus was interested in seeing McConnell take over the presidency. Sixty-seven percent wanted{}Southern Mississippi{}Provost Martha Saunders; and 44 percent were interested in seeing Harvard's{}Dr. Dennis "Jody" Encarnation fill the role.{}

"Despite all of that the board of Trustees still offered him the position as president. And, I feel like that's a blatant slap in the face," Sanders said. "We feel like if he is the president then a lot of students will be afraid to come to the College, and a lot of the students here will feel less supported."

She thinks the campus will -- and should -- fight the decision.

The feedback spilled onto social media, too.

"Beyond mortified," tweeted one person of the news.

"At least this verifies that the Board of Trustees have literally no concern for what faculty and students want," tweeted Clifton McDaniel. "Huge mistake."

Taylor Thompson asked on Twitter what the College's new public relations plan would be "since our reputation was just flushed down the toilet."

McConnell announced his interest in the position in January and said he was going to forego a re-election campaign for the second-highest seat in the state for the presidency at CofC. McConnell is a graduate of the College.{}

Last week, 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 tough questions 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.{}

The board was also considering{}Dr. Dennis "Jody" Encarnation of Harvard University and{}Provost Martha Saunders of{}Southern Mississippi.

Padgett said the board would begin contract negotiations with McConnell immediately. If he accepts the board's terms, he would start his term as the College's president on July 1.