Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell has signed a five-year contract to lead the College of Charleston, nearly two months after the school's Board of Trustees voted to hire him.
According to the contract, which board chairman Greg Padgett released Monday, McConnell will earn a $300,000 annual salary, with $188,000 coming from the state and $112,000 from the school's foundation. He will live in the president's house on campus, and the school will provide him with a car.
The decision to hire McConnell immediately sparked controversy on the campus. Many students, faculty and community members thought the selection was politically motivated. They also were concerned about how McConnell's support of flying the Confederate battle flag on Statehouse grounds and participating in Civil War re-enactments would affect minority enrollments.
The move sparked several campus protests, and no-confidence votes from the Student Government Association and Faculty Senate. But the board stood firm in its decision to hire McConnell, insisting he was the best person for the job.
In a news release from the school, Padgett said McConnell has "an unparalleled track record of leadership and service to the state of South Carolina, and we know that he possesses the vision and dedication that will lead the College of Charleston through its next era of progress and success in educating our students and serving our community."
McConnell, a 1969 graduate of the college, stated in the release that the school is in his DNA. "Any success I have enjoyed throughout my legal, business, and legislative careers started with the excellent liberal arts education I received at the college. I look forward to serving and leading my alma mater in a new chapter in its history marked by greater diversity, sustainability, relevance, and accountability," McConnell stated in the release.
The college's downtown campus has been quiet in the past week, after much upheaval this spring over McConnell being hired. Seniors graduated May 10, and most students are away for the summer.
But a group of activist students from the group Fight for CofC have continued to follow and speak out against McConnell being hired.
Brandon Fish, a senior, said group members were shocked when they learned about the contract late Monday. "We were upset the contract was signed," he said. "We were holding on to hope (McConnell) would back out" after seeing how much resistance there was on campus to him being hired.
"And the thought that it's a five-year contract was particularly shocking," he said.
Fight for CofC members were planning to meet later Monday to discuss the issue and possibly prepare a more in-depth statement, he said.
McConnell is a native of Charleston who served more than 30 years in the South Carolina Senate, the last 11 as president pro tempore. He is widely seen as one of the most powerful politicians in South Carolina.
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.
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