Confederate uniforms long ago became a dubious fashion statement for college administrators.
But before dismissing Glenn McConnell's College of Charleston presidential aspirations on those grounds, remember that Robert E. Lee, after losing the Civil War, became president of what was then Washington College and is now Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.
And McConnell, an avid Confederate re-enactor and former owner of CSA Galleries, has worn a Union uniform when not enough pretend Yankee soldiers showed up to fill the Northern ranks.
McConnell also has presidential experience as president pro tem of the S.C. Senate from 2001-12.
In contrast, Barack Obama had been a U.S. senator for less than four years when voters first elected him president of our entire country.
Clearly, what constitutes sufficient presidential credentials remains a topic of debate.
Just as clearly, debate has intensified over McConnell's C of C candidacy after he emerged as one of the final three Tuesday. He chose to pursue that top job at his alma mater (Class of 1969) rather than run this year to keep his lieutenant governor's post.
And movie buffs basking in the afterglow of Tinseltown's Oscar awards on Sunday night should choose to recall two cinematic classics that teach this lasting lesson: Colleges can benefit from making unorthodox choices in leadership.
What price victory?
In the 1932 Marx Brothers triumph "Horse Feathers," Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (played by Groucho Marx), immediately after being promoted to the presidency of Huxley College, fixates on recruiting prime football talent in time for the big game against arch rival Darwin College.
In league with his student son Frank (Zeppo Marx), Wagstaff brazenly subverts the school's academic mission for the sake of gridiron glory by adding utterly unscholarly new "students" Baravelli (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx) to the roster.
Gee, would a college president really put sports success over educational integrity?
President Wagstaff then scrambles through various obstacles, and ultimately a chariot scene, quipping constantly, including ...
Frank: "Dad, two of the greatest football players in the country hang out in a speakeasy downtown."
President Wagstaff: "Are you suggesting that I, the president of Huxley College, go into a speakeasy without even giving me the address?"
Yet "Horse Feathers" isn't the only epic movie reminder that higher education can - and should - produce not just highly learned graduates but low-brow humor.
An instructive film example of more recent vintage is 1978's "Animal House."
Set in 1962, it pits Faber College Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon) in a bitter battle of wits - and halfwits - with the drinking-and-debauchery delinquents of the Delta Tau Chi House.
Among the irate dean's memorable proclamations:
"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son." ... "The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me." ... "You're out! Finished at Faber! Expelled! I want you off this campus at 9 o'clock Monday morning, and I've contacted your local draft boards and told them that you were all, all eligible for military service."
That final warning conveys this remedial lesson to non-history majors: Way back then, the consequences of flunking out (or getting thrown out) could include conscription into the armed forces.
Stage more pep rallies
OK, so McConnell isn't nearly as funny as Wagstaff or Wormer. But the escalating clash of wills over McConnell's presidential bid does pack a powerful farcical punch.
And if he gets that ivory-tower gig, he should try to heal the wounds of the succession crisis with a school-unifying, Wagstaff-like quest for Cougar athletic dominance - even though the C of C doesn't have a football team.
Then, if malcontents among the faculty, student body or any other campus sect don't get with McConnell's programs, he should put them, as Dean Wormer did Delta, on "double secret probation."
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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