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College of Charleston alumni would like a woman president, please

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Cistern Yard (copy)

Cistern Yard at the College of Charleston File/Robert Behre/Staff

The College of Charleston's next president should be someone other than a white male, some of its students and alumni say.

"C of C has never had a woman or minority as president, and that needs to change!" one alumnus said in a listening session, according to a summary document provided by the presidential search committee.

"Please do not hire any politicians," one student said. "We need a woman to lead this school. More than 60 percent of students are female."

The College of Charleston solicited comments from more than 700 people this year as it searches for a replacement for President Glenn McConnell, who announced his retirement in January. It remains to be seen what the college's Board of Trustees do with all that input.

Faculty members and students both said they want a president with a "strong academic background" and a proven track record of fundraising, according to a summary posted on the search page.

Students also said they want a president who is "highly involved" on campus, interested in sustainability and diversity, and "someone who is diverse, preferably a woman."

Alumni also said they want a president with experience in higher education and fundraising, and many said they would like to see a woman or person of color get the job.

The words "diverse" and "diversity" appear 28 times in the student input summary and 161 times in the alumni summary.

The college plans to identify and interview candidates over the summer, and its Presidential Search Committee is expected to make its recommendations to the Board of Trustees in the fall. Spokesman Ron Menchaca said the college will formally advertise the position after June 15.

The college will pay the Dallas-based search firm R. William Funk & Associates $130,000 for help: The company has helped hire hundreds of college presidents and chancellors, including top posts at Clemson University and the University of North Carolina, according to a 2014 profile in the Dallas Morning News.

The college's job description says R. William Funk & Associates will come up with a proactive, national or international recruitment strategy and help the Search Committee get a diverse pool of "outstanding candidates."

The current process is similar to the one the college followed in 2014. At the end of that process, the Board of Trustees torpedoed the recommendations of its search committee, ignored the protests of faculty members and student government leaders, and selected McConnell.

Some derided that hiring process as a farce and complained about McConnell's lack of experience in higher education, as well as his longstanding support for public displays of the Confederate flag. The early days of his presidency were marred by distrust and open opposition from students, but he later won over some critics.

In January, McConnell announced his retirement, citing his health and age. Board Chairman David Hay vowed that the search process would be "inclusive and transparent."

The Board of Trustees created a presidential search committee in February. All but two of the Search Committee members — School of Professional Studies Dean Godfrey Gibbison and math professor and Speaker of the Faculty Liz Jurisich — are also members of the Board of Trustees.

Menchaca said the search committee will get help from a task force of faculty, staff, students, alumni and volunteer leaders. The task force will suggest interview questions to help guide the search committee's conversations with the candidates, he added.

McConnell plans to step down in July. Retired administrator Steve Osborne will serve as interim president as the search wraps up.

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546. Follow him on Twitter @paul_bowers.

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