Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell is among the finalists for the job of president of the College of Charleston despite not being among the five candidates recommended by a the school's presidential search committee.
The State newspaper in Columbia, citing a source familiar with the search, said that McConnell, former White House chief of staff Andrew Card and Jody Encarnation, a College of Charleston graduate who spent three decades on the faculty of Harvard University are among the finalists.
The college's Board of Trustees met for about 10 hours Friday to continue reviewing candidates for the school's top post.
Board of Trustees Chairman Greg Padgett said the board selected its top five candidates at that meeting and reached out to them by phone to see if they still were interested in the job. It has not heard back from all of those candidates, he said. It will release the names of finalists as soon as it hears back from all candidates.
Under state law, the board must release the names of the final pool of no fewer than three candidates.
The college's Foundation Board met early in day Friday. Several members of that board said the college should select the school's next president from among the five candidates recommended by a presidential search committee.
Keith Sauls, a member of that group, said the search process will cost an estimated $100,000. If the college's Board of Trustees veers from the search committee's list of recommended candidates, it should repay the cost of the search.
Members of that group did not refer by name to McConnell, who applied for the president's job. Sources with close ties to the search have said that McConnell was among the search committee's top 10 candidates, but he was not among the five recommended candidates that the search committee forwarded to the board.
Padgett told Foundation Board members that the search committee forwarded its recommendations to the board, but it's the Board of Trustees that ultimately will decide on the school's next president. The board can consider candidates that are not on the search committee's list, and it can drop candidates on that list from consideration.
The College of Charleston Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises money and promotes education and research programs. The college's Board of Trustees is the governing body of the school.
Foundation Board member Hellene Rantagh said the college is at a critical time in its history and it needs a strong leader.
The Board of Trustees put together a great search committee that recommended five candidates, she said. "With great enthusiasm and passion, they told us with big smiles that any of them could lead the college. Deviating from the process would be tantamount to a mortal sin."
Foundation Board member A.J. Heath said it's important to remember that the college has a growing national reputation and is no longer a small South Carolina institution. It needs a leader who understands that. "If the board departs from the (search committee's) list, it will be hard to explain why it has done so," Heath said.
Jordan Hensley, president of the Student Government Association, said students also are paying attention to the search.
Hensley, who was a member of the college's search committee, said students have asked her about the legitimacy of the search after reading media reports that McConnell still could be in the running for the school's top post, despite not being among the search committee's five recommended candidates.
"They are shaken by what they have been reading," she said. "They're not sure what to make of the process."
Hensley said search committee members agreed to keep confidential the specific details of their discussions. But she can assure students that the group's process was ethical and "done by the book."
She cannot address the process of the Board of Trustees because she's not part of that group.
Students aren't weighing in on McConnell, or any other specific candidate, she said. They simply want to know that a new leader will look out for their best interests, and that he or she will not attempt to change the character of the school they love. They want to know that the next president "was hands-down the best candidate we had."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.