It is troubling to see members of the state Legislature showing so much interest in the business of the College of Charleston. Three examples:
1) The college's summer reading program.
2) The possible merger with the Medical University of South Carolina.
3) The selection of the next College of Charleston president.
No. 3 is today's subject because the selection of the president is imminent.
Judging by the daily press and the discussion mill on campus, there appears to me so-called meddling by the state legislative members in the naming of the next president. It is a disturbing trend.
Here are the facts as known today:
Fifteen supporters of the college were appointed to the Search Committee charged with the responsibility of recommending to the Board of Trustees no more than five candidates for the college presidency.
It was a difficult task, with some 100-plus individuals studied, all of whom considered themselves qualified for this demanding position. The committee made five selections after careful consideration.
Now, it seems, there are requests (demands? threats?) to expand the list for the Board of Trustees to consider. Pressuring members to add more candidate names is ignoring best practices in the public sector for the role of nominating committees.
We are talking about integrity here - the personal integrity of the Board of Trustees.
We all operate under rules - for example, rules of the road and rules of behavior. Our athletes are expected to obey the rules of the game; if they do not, they may suffer severe consequences.
The College of Charleston Board of Trustees should not be asked to break an integrity precedent.
Board members should not be asked to act outside their own high degree of proper conduct - and outside of transparent and agreed upon best practices.
Let's not taint this task of naming the next president of the College of Charleston with demands for reversal of long-standing ethical standards at the college.
This should be made clear:
The College of Charleston has always been a model for correct behavior never before challenged in this way.
In the 30-plus-years association with this wonderful college, this writer has not seen a similar movement to revoke highly ethical standards. Now beyond the rumor stage, Board of Trustees members are being asked to modify the program for recommending names for the entire board of trustees to consider.
This writer makes this case: While observing the conduct of several C of C presidents, there has never been an attempt to usurp high moral principles.
If the Board of Trustees bows to outside pressures and discards the recognition and therefore the word of the selection committee, where does this end?
What does this say about integrity and honesty to students, the alumni and to potential presidential candidates?
This is not the type of ethics being taught at the College of Charleston.
It is fully expected the Board of Trustees will follow the original guidelines and reject all pressure to abandon accepted rules of order and best practices.
George G. Spaulding is distinguished executive-in-residence emeritus at the School of Business at the College of Charleston.
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