College of Charleston honor student Briosha "Bri" Sanders had a few minutes to speak Friday after being acknowledged for her achievements by the school's Board of Trustees at its meeting.
She used those minutes to encourage the board not to hire Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the school's next president.
"I'm a very concerned community member," Sanders said as she passed out a flier stating "McConnell is not our man."
At a student and alumni protest a few hours later, Sanders said she doesn't think McConnell is qualified for the job and she wants everyone to know that.
"Any opportunity I could find, I was going to take," she said.
About 50 protesters and as many onlookers gathered at noon on the Cougar Mall, just outside Randolph Hall where the board was in its third day of a four-day meeting. Protesters using a bullhorn shouted chants including, "Tell the B.O.T. Glenn McConnell is not for me."
The board was scheduled to meet with each of the three presidential finalists Friday and Saturday. It will begin deliberating on who next will lead the school Saturday afternoon. It remains unclear when the board will announce the school's next president, but it could be as early as Saturday.
The other presidential finalists are longtime Harvard University professor Jody Encarnation and University of South Florida Provost Martha Saunders.
Student organizers say they are opposed to McConnell being hired because his support of the Confederate battle flag flying on Statehouse grounds and his participation in Civil War re-enactments will make it more difficult for the school to recruit minority students, especially black students. They also say he has no academic experience and the college's budget was cut when McConnell served as president pro tempore of the state Senate.
About 2,000 students and alumni have signed a petition opposing McConnell being hired. And in a recently released poll of faculty members, only 11 percent said they found McConnell acceptable for the job of president. Saunders was the leader in the survey, with a 67 percent acceptable rate, followed by Encarnation at 44 percent.
McConnell could not be reach for comment Friday afternoon. His voicemail was full.
But in public interviews last week with students, faculty and staff members, McConnell said the battle flag was removed from the Statehouse dome, and then placed on the grounds in 2000, as part of a legislative compromise; his re-enacting is a hobby about making history come alive; and all higher education budgets were cut during the recession.
He also said he is a seasoned leader, a proud 1969 graduate of the college, and has demonstrated success in diversity efforts, including increasing diversity among the state's judges.
Junior Matt Raybon, one of the protesters, said McConnell's re-enactments send the wrong message to potential students. He cited a widely circulated photograph of McConnell dressed as a Confederate general flanked by two black people who appear to some to be dressed as slaves.
The photo represents either "prejudice in his heart or a lack of judgement in his mind," Raybon said.
Brandon Upson, a 2013 graduate of the college who is black, said currently only 6 percent of the school's students are black while blacks make up about 30 percent of the state's population. "We are the 6 percent," Upson said. "And the 6 percent is (angry) today."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.
College of Charleston students and alumni showed up on campus Friday to speak out against Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell possibly being hired as the school’s next president.×
Outgoing College of Charleston President George Benson and chief of staff Brian McGefrom left) watch as about 50 students protest the possible selection of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the next president of the college by the school’s Board of Trustees.×
Protest signs made by some students at the College of Charleston against the possible selection of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the school’s next president.×
Brandon Upson, a 2013 graduate of the College of Charleston, speaks to a group of students protesting the possible selection of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the school’s next president.×