CofC student resolution calls for occupation, Trustees' resignation

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Two days after the Board of Trustees announced they had unanimously selected Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell to serve as the College of Charleston next president, students and faculty mobilized to protest the decision.

A Facebook group organized the protest{}on the campus for noon on Monday. More than 400 people said via the group that they were attending or planning to attend. Three thousand people were invited.

Participants began lining up before 11 a.m. The group is expected to move from Cougar Mall in the heart of campus to the Cistern Yard outside the president's office and Randolph Hall.

The group moved into the Cistern Yard and began chanting and handing off a bullhorn to express their messages of discontent.{}A resolution was drafted and read aloud at the rally{}that called the Board of Trustees to task for not listening to the campus community.

"The Board of Trustees has betrayed the trust of everyone at the College and lost all legitimacy," the resolution said, calling for an occupation of the Cistern.

"As the body entrusted to conduct a fair, democratic and transparent process in the selection of our next president, they have failed to do so."

Brandon Upson, a graduate of the College, presented a list of demands at the rally, calling for McConnell to donate $50,000 of his salary to the campus diversity office and create two seats on the Board of Trustees for students.

Protesters say they will not stop the action against the decision until their concerns are taken seriously. Organizers said there were nearly 500 students involved in the march and rally.

The resolution goes on to ask for the resignation of the Board of Trustees.

Board chairman Greg Padgett released a second statement on the presidential selection, saying that the board followed a strict process to find the next president.

"The process identified three outstanding finalists, each of whom had different strengths and experiences. The Board considered the feedback from every campus and community constituency before selecting Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the next president of the College. I'm confident the Board made the best decision for the future of the College of Charleston and the educational needs of our students and our state," Padgett said in the statement.

Padgett has denied any interview requests on the matter.


McConnell meets on campus amid protests

While the protesters marched through campus and shouted their displeasure outside Randolph Hall, McConnell was on the campus meeting with administrators, faculty members and students. He said he was not able to talk to the protesters during his visit Monday.

McConnell said he met with a representative of the Student Government Association and related his experience as a member of the campus' governing body.

He also said that he hopes those people who disagree with his selection as president judge him on what he's willing to do for the campus and on his service to the school.

The student body and members of the faculty have been vocally against McConnell's presidency since he was announced a finalist for the position.

According to a campus survey, only 11 percent of people felt McConnell was the right choice for the position. Board chairman Greg Padgett has declined any interviews Monday to discuss the closed-door vote and why he feels the board voted for McConnell against the urging of the campus community.

The board voted 18-0 to offer McConnell the position. According to Trustee Don Belk, the two members who were not present for the vote were Jeff Schlitz and John Woods. Belk said both men had to leave the meeting before the vote took place.

He issued a statement Saturday evening after the two-hour discussion and vote.

"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.

Since the announcement Saturday evening, detractors have been vocal on the campus and on social media.

Martha Saunders, one of the other finalists, said Monday that McConnell now has a duty to the school.

"I think he has inherited a wonderful school with a great history, so my advice is to take care of what you have and try to make them better," she said.

Saunders also said she never got the feeling that the board was partial to any one candidate.


College releases feedback data on McConnell, other finalists

During the campus visits of McConnell, Encarnation and Saunders, members of the campus community were given a chance to meet with each one and provide written feedback on the meetings and their perceptions of the candidates.

The College reports that more than 400 feedback forms were submitted by the march 17 deadline, most of which came from the faculty.

For McConnell, respondents said they felt it was a strength that he had intimate knowledge of the state's government having been a member of it for decades. "McConnell is qualified for the job and may be the only person that can fix some of the serious challenges facing the College," one person wrote.

Respondents also found McConnell's work on diversity efforts in the state to be a positive thing that could benefit the College, as was his stated interest in focusing on the affordability of college tuition.

In matters of funding and donations, many people said McConnell offered a distinct perspective on finding money and believed he could "probably get large donations" and get "access to funding so badly needed."

A faculty member called McConnell a true gentleman.

"He can help heal and restore the sense of community that drew most of us to CofC," the faculty member wrote.

However, respondents also cited McConnell's lack of experience in higher education as a problem, as was evidenced by his inability to answer questions about the challenges of leading a public university. Some people also said that McConnell's experience and relationships in the General Assembly were not meaningful if the state remained unwilling to commit more money into the state's colleges and universities.

One person wrote that McConnell's history in the Legislature should be questioned because he was a member of the body when funding percentages were slashed.

Another person said that it appeared McConnell had made no efforts to familiarize himself with the issues and responsibilities of the institution. "This candidate seems to have put forth none of this effort and seems to believe he can work a solely political job under an academic title," the student wrote.

When considering McConnell as a president, more concerns were expressed in the feedback forms, specifically how he would be perceived by minority students and faculty members and how potential students from outside of South Carolina might perceive him, and thus the College.

"It should be abundantly clear to the Board of Trustees that the appointment of Glenn McConnell would alienate the faculty and student body and make the College of Charleston a national laughingstock," one faculty member summed up.

Another person said his fixation on the past - Southern history and his politics - were ultimately enough to disqualify him from the position.

"I believe he could be a successful candidate if he can distance himself from former political actions and think like an educator," wrote another student.


What's next for McConnell's seat in Columbia?

McConnell still has to accept the contract before he officially becomes president. If he accepts the board's offer, he will start his term on July 1.

That also means that he will be leaving the lieutenant governor's office, creating another seat to fill for Gov. Nikki Haley. She's bound by the state's constitution to nominate the current Senate Pro Tempore, John Courson.

However, officials at Courson's office said Monday that he would turn down the governor's appointment. If Courson cannot be swayed, then the next person in line would be Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell. Harrell has not signaled his interest either way.

McConnell was also appointed to the position after Ken Ard resigned the post.

On the campus, questions also arise on the proposed College and MUSC merger that has been backed by Mayor Joe Riley and members of the Statehouse. Many people on the campus have remained strongly opposed to a merger, claiming it would diminish the liberal arts identity of the school.

McConnell said in an interview Sunday that he was interested in seeing the two schools collaborate and create something like Claremont College in California.

McConnell said he will meet with the General Assembly later this week to talk about his departure from office.

The other political matter is the bill to create aCharleston University introduced by Rep. Leon Stavrinakis.

Stavrinakis said Sunday that he had not spoken withMcConnell specifically about the bill, but says the lieutenant governor has talkedabout expanding research opportunities at the College. He says he trustsMcConnell to do what's best for CofC.

"I have that expectation of him and don't need to havetalked to him about the bill to feel that way because I've worked with him foryears and know that's the way he would approach it," he said.

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