So the inevitable has come to pass: the CofC Board of Trustees has chosen the Grand Wizard of the Statehouse Glenn McConnell to be their next president, despite the fact that he is a proud supporter of the Confederate flag and the previous owner of CSA Galleries, a store specializing in Lost Cause memorabilia and mythology. And the board did so against the wishes of the faculty
and staff, a good portion of the student population
, and the local NAACP
Now, we know why they did it: the Board of Trustees is appointed by the Statehouse and Gen. McConnell is still a powerful force in the General Assembly. So much so that state Reps. Leon Stavrinakis and Jim Merrill publicly said that once McConnell first indicated that he wanted the prez post, there was no point in even fielding other candidates.
But none of that matters. The Board of Trustees and the pro-CofC-MUSC forces in the state Lege (i.e. Stavrinakis, Merrill) and Charleston (the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Riley) have gotten what they want: their world-class town now has a third-tier university.
Whatever reputation that CofC was trying to build is more or less ruined. Hell, it will now probably have as much respect nationally as the Citadel — which has been maligned by three decades of bad press (Pat Conroy, Save the Males, the Skip ReVille coverup).
Think about this for a second: Would either Clemson or USC
have chosen a staunch Confederate flag defender like McConnell? The answer is no — they pick life-long academics
and administrators. Say what you will about either school, but they do have good reputations, Clemson in particular, and they are very conscientious about protecting them. They wouldn't select such a divisive choice, a choice with so much Lost Cause baggage.
When it comes to attracting minority students — and those who want to go to a school where African-Americans are treated like first-class citizens, not historical relics of a bygone error — the Board of Trustees just took a huge step into a tar baby from which CofC will never emerge.
And make no mistake, neither USC nor Clemson would turn a presidential search into a dog and pony show, a bit of political theater to amuse the Statehouse asses. Word gets out, and when the word gets out about CofC, it won't be good.
Furthermore, the only reasonable pro that McConnell's supporters offer in his favor is that because of his influence at the Statehouse, he'll be able to grease the wheels and make sure CofC gets the money it needs. But here's the thing: the General Assembly has been cutting funding to state colleges and universities for several decades. Which is why Clemson and USC have increasingly turned to alumni and corporate partners to bring in money. (See, ICAR
and the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center
As have other colleges across the country, some of whom hired political heavyweights — like Mitch Daniels, Janet Napolitano — to lead their schools. Make no mistake, Purdue didn't hire Daniels so that the one-time governor could use his political pull to get the Indiana state Legislature to give Purdue more money. They want Daniels to use his right-wing star status to woo big-money donors, in state and out. Who the fuck is McConnell going to solicit: Dixie Outfitters? The ghost of Maurice Bessinger? The bird shit-covered John C. Calhoun statue in Marion Square?
So enjoy yourself, guys. And say hello to Lander for us.
Chris Haire is the author of the comic novel, The Many Crimes of Wyatt Duvall, Archmotherfucker, a despicable tale about dastardly man committing dastardly deeds. Oh, and dryer lint smoking. Lots of dryer lint smoking. It's currently available at Amazon.com.