by Paul Bowers
As the College of Charleston Board of Trustees meets on campus today to discuss the selection of the next college president, students will rally nearby to show their discontent with a process that they say unfairly favors Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as a candidate.
Today at noon, students will gather by the fountain in front of Randolph Hall to speak out against the selection process. Two different petitions have been started to oppose the selection of McConnell, one of three candidates for president, and those petitions combined have garnered more than 2,000 unique signatures.
Josh Schmidt, a senior at the college who wrote a petition titled "McConnell is NOT our man!" says he plans to print out copies of all of the petition signatures. "We'll just drop a huge stack in front of them and say, 'These are the students who are against it,'" Schmidt says.
McConnell, a former high-powered state senator, already has a dorm named after him on campus. He faces fellow candidates Martha D. Saunders, a current provost at the University of West Florida, and Dennis J. "Jody" Encarnation, a Harvard faculty member. Schmidt's petition asserts that political pressure has tainted the selection process, and it questions whether McConnell, who has taken flak for dressing like a Confederate soldier in re-enactments, would hurt the college's recruitment efforts among African-American students:
"The College trails its peer institutions in South Carolina in recruiting minority students, and particularly African-American students. In recent years, the College has made considerable effort to make its campus more welcoming of minority students. The appointment of Glenn McConnell will set these initiatives back, and instead entrench the perception that the college is unfriendly to minorities."
Camille Weaver, social outreach chair of the college's Black Student Union, said in a press release that she found McConnell's answers to questions in a recent campus visit to be "evasive."
"He gave no direct answers to our questions," Weaver said. "It's like he was filibustering on the Senate floor."
The petition signers aren't the only students taking exception to the president selection process. Recently, the Student Government Association passed a resolution urging the Trustees to "select the most qualified candidate for the presidency without regard for political or personal bonds."
Leading up to the selection of the final three, the college spent $70,000 plus expenses hiring the company AGB Search to recruit presidential candidates, according to CofC spokesman Mike Robertson. AGB sent about about 100 candidate applications to the college's Search Committee, which was composed of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and Board of Trustees members.
The Search Committee then submitted a short list of recommendations to the Board of Trustees. According to reports in The State and the Post and Courier, McConnell was nowhere to be found on that short list. But after hearing the Search Committee's input, when the Board of Trustees announced their own four finalists (including Andrew Card, who dropped out of the running the next day), McConnell had made the cut.
Robertson said the list of recommendations from the Search Committee is not available. Under state Freedom of Information laws, the college is only required to release the names of its three finalists for the position.
Ultimately, the choice of the next president is in the Board of Trustees' hands. But Schmidt says, after seeing the candidates on campus last week, he has his favorite picked out.
"I would definitely be for Encarnation," Schmidt says. "A lot of faculty think that Saunders is most qualified in terms of academic leadership, but in terms of bringing new ideas to the college and private donations, Encarnation was the most moving presenter."
"They're both way better in terms of merits than what McConnell has been for us," he adds.