Robert Caslen, a retired three-star Army general, was named the next president of the University of South Carolina on Friday despite objections from students, faculty and donors who said the former West Point superintendent lacks the experience and personal skills to run the state’s flagship college.
His election came despite a rare public split on the USC board over Caslen’s qualifications and how he got the job by getting a second chance through lobbying from Gov. Henry McMaster.
The board hired Caslen by an 11-8 vote (board member William Hubbard voted "present"), a divide that trustees did not want in April when they chose to continue the search rather than hire the general and three other finalists.
Trustees first rejected an effort to postpone the presidential vote for the second time in three months over complaints that the search had become too political.
“This is the saddest day I can ever remember at the University of South Carolina,” trustee Charles Williams said during an impassioned address to the board. “The damage is done. It’s just a matter of how much more damage there’s going to be.”