College of Charleston students demonstrate disagreement over McConnell selection

College of Charleston students, their mouths taped shut with duct tape, stage a sit-in Wednesday at Randolph Hall to demonstrate their disagreement with the college Board of Trustees' selection of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the school's next president. Buy this photo

Turmoil over the hiring of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the College of Charleston's next president continued Wednesday, with a group of students staging a sit-in and the faculty considering taking a no-confidence vote against the board.

About 70 students, who had taped their mouths shut with duct tape, held a sit-in at Randolph Hall on the downtown campus.

In a written statement to onlookers, student organizers said they were holding a peaceful demonstration against what they see as the Board of Trustees' "tainted and secretive" presidential search process.

Hannah Craig, a junior from Rock Hill, said she participated in the sit-in because she loves her school and she wanted everyone to know that students, faculty and staff matter.

"Even though we were silent," she said, "it symbolizes how strong our voices were."

The board on Saturday voted to hire Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the school's next president, despite strong opposition from faculty and some students. Opponents cite McConnell's lack of academic experience, and the possible impact his support of the Confederate battle flag flying on Statehouse grounds and participating in Civil War re-enactments could have on minority recruitment.

Board Chairman Greg Padgett said he respects the students. "They have a point of view and the right to express it."

But he thinks that when they get to know McConnell, "they will see what the Board of Trustees sees."

Padgett said the board would not reconsider its decision to hire McConnell, even though a contract has not yet been signed. "The board made a decision. It offered the job to McConnell, and he accepted the position."

A state board also took action on McConnell's new position Wednesday. The Agency Head Salary Commission approved $188,000 toward McConnell's salary.

College presidents' salaries often include a portion from the state and a portion from the institutions' foundations.

Current school President George Benson earns about $379,500, with $179,500 coming from the state and $200,000 from the school's foundation.

The college's Student Government Association on Tuesday voted that it had no confidence in the board.

Student groups have said the board didn't adequately listen to their concerns in the presidential search process. They also want board members to answer directly whether they veered from a 15-member search committee's list of recommended candidates when they chose McConnell as a finalist.

Sources with close ties to the search process have said both McConnell and finalist Jody Encarnation were not among the top five candidates the committee forwarded to the board.

Benson, who will step down in June, came out of his office to address the student protesters. "I admire your passion and dedication to the College of Charleston. It speaks volumes," Benson said.

The college's Faculty Senate will consider a resolution of no-confidence in the board at its April 1 meeting. According to proposed resolution on the group's website, the Faculty Senate questions the integrity of the presidential search, which "created the impression among faculty that the search was predetermined."

It also questioned the board's commitment to academic freedom, and claimed the board failed to inform the campus community about of its position on a merger with the Medical University of South Carolina and other issues pertaining to the college's potential re-shaping into a research university.



Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.

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