"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
- William Shakespeare, "Hamlet"
The Bard didn't have Friday's mass College of Charleston student walk-out in mind when he put those words in the mouth of Queen Gertrude.
But some folks around here thinks, er, think, that some ladies - and gentlemen - doth protest too much about the school's choice of Glenn McConnell as its next president.
Methinks, however, that it's no surprise the decision has riled lots of students, faculty members and others.
After all, McConnell crafted a 2000 compromise that, while removing a Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome, put another one front and center at the Confederate Memorial on Statehouse grounds.
And he has long been an avid Civil War re-enactor - usually, but not always, donned in Confederate garb.
So if it's OK to wear a Union uniform to play war, shouldn't it also be OK to wear a Confederate uniform to play war?
Republican McConnell drew high praise from Democratic Charleston Mayor Joe Riley in a guest column on our Friday Commentary page. McConnell also won admirers on both sides of the aisle during more than three decades in the S.C. Senate, including 2001-12 as its president pro tem. In keeping with the state constitution, he gave up his seat to become lieutenant governor after Ken Ard's resignation left that position vacant.
Yet after chasing his alma mater's presidency, McConnell might learn to regret catching it.
Those who opposed his candidacy now have a Lost Cause of their own to champion - perhaps into perpetuity.
Still, you need not share their contempt for McConnell to respect their free-speech right to express it.
Here we go again
Enough already about the ongoing - and sure to be long-running - College of Charleston controversy.
What about previous protests from Palmetto State campuses?
In 1968, two S.C. State students and a high school student protesting the whites-only policy of an Orangeburg bowling alley were killed by state highway patrolmen.
Such Civil Rights Movement protests helped force Americans - particularly Southerners - to belatedly recognize the blatant injustice and utter stupidity of racial segregation.
Our nation's military misadventure in Southeast Asia triggered protests within our state's borders, too - eventually. In May 1970, less than a week after Ohio National Guardsmen killed four students during a protest at Kent State University, U.S. campus unrest extended to the University of South Carolina, where protesters "occupied" the Russell House student union.
Two days earlier, a disapproving News and Courier sportswriter had reported from Columbia that about 150 to 200 "ill-clad" protesters "literally took over the meeting room of a swank new downtown motel," where USC President Thomas Jones announced that the school had decided to stay in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Though USC did leave the ACC a year later, the last U.S. troops didn't leave Vietnam until 1975.
And though May 1970 was a grim month for both our nation and state, our newspaper produced some comic-relief, protest-related headlines, including: "Youths Frolic In Nude, Chant Obscenities" (front page, May 10, 1970, over a story about rowdy war protesters in Washington). ... "Committee May Probe 'Communist Activities' At USC" (Page 3-B, May 14, 1970, over a story about some state lawmakers suspecting a Red menace on campus).
Hold that Tiger
Of course, like beauty, what is and isn't worthy of protest (or counter-protest) lies in the eye of the beholder.
And on Jan. 19, 1990, there was a remarkable protest to behold on the Clemson campus.
Thousands gathered on Bowman Field for a candlelight vigil. As their fury rose, the mob proceeded to the house of Clemson President Max Lennon, who had just forced the "resignation" of football coach Danny Ford, who went 96-29-4 with the Tigers while winning one national and five ACC titles, getting into multiple NCAA troubles along the way.
Lennon wasn't home. He was in Memphis to court Ford's replacement, then- Arkansas coach Ken Hatfield.
From the book "The Danny Ford Years: Romping and Stomping" by ex-Post and Courier sportswriter Larry Williams, who now breaks stories for tigerillustrated.com:
"A sign in the crowd read: 'CU later MAX.' Another read: 'IPNAY: I'll Pay Nothing for A Year.' One fan screamed: 'Get out Max. That's our house.' A state trooper told The News and Courier: 'I haven't seen anything like this since the '60s.' "
Clemson, meanwhile, has seen only two more ACC football titles (1991 and 2011) since canning Ford.
And McConnell is just beginning to see how much harder it will be to run the College of Charleston than it was to run the S.C. Senate.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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