McConnell and the College of Charleston: Kerfuffle or Controversy?

In the aftermath of Glenn McConnell’s selection as president of the College of Charleston, the discussion has been (as I warned you) fairly predictable, although we now have a spat over the nature of the new president’s library (and what he sold at his store).

I confess that I am not terribly interested in this matter in terms of McConnell’s interest in Confederate heritage. The College was well aware of his interests when it chose him, and the reaction should have come as no surprise. But other people are far more interested. Are you?

5 thoughts on “McConnell and the College of Charleston: Kerfuffle or Controversy?

  1. Tony April 8, 2014 / 6:47 am

    It’s Trent Lott part deux. Everyone will ignore his long history of racism to focus on that one time he made an off-handed comment at an octagenarian’s birthday celebration. Then it’ll be “KATY BAR THE DOOR!!1!11!one”

  2. Patrick Young April 8, 2014 / 6:52 am

    The hiring seems to have excited interest beyond the normal reaction to a new president. According to Inside Higher Education:

    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/03/26/college-charlestons-next-president-politician-confederate-sympathies-faculty-and

    “In picking McConnell, the public liberal arts college’s trustees reportedly ignored its own search committee, which did not recommend the politician — who has never worked in higher education — for president.”

    “Backlash has been swift. Students rallied against McConnell’s selection Monday in the largest campus protest in recent memory. “This is 2014 NOT 1814,” one sign read. On Tuesday, the student government voted no confidence in the college’s trustees. ”

    “The Faculty Senate, which has been at odds with the trustees over more than just McConnell, is expected to take a no confidence vote in April. The resolution the faculty will consider alleges trustees have “undermined confidence in the integrity of the search and its outcome, creating the impression among faculty that the search was predetermined.””

    I am always interested in decision makers at schools taking actions which will likely decrease enrollments by non-whites in a school. I wonder if that was the purpose.While universities and college claim to want diversity, we know that many whites prefer to live in virtually all-white neighborhoods. Perhaps by discouraging non-white enrollment, the trustees want to make it a more desirable place for white parents to send their children.

    The College of Charleston was a white-only institution until 1968. Its first black hired in a non-menial position was in 1972.

    At the 40th Anniversary of the Desegregation of the College of Charleston commemoration (2008), College President P. George Benson said that “Forty years ago, African Americans weren’t allowed to attend class on this campus….Ours is not a pretty story…
    I would like to say the College of Charleston was a powerful leader in integrating higher
    education in South Carolina but… it was not…. Efforts by the president and some of the trustees of the College of Charleston to remain segregated throughout the 1940’s, 50’s and the early 60’s have been well documented.”

    The college seems to have moved forward in increasing diversity in the last 20 years, but in a state that is 28% black, the college student body is only 6% black.

  3. Andy Hall April 8, 2014 / 7:53 am

    The Confederate thing is a kerluffle. McConnell’s activities and business interest in those areas have been known/lauded/criticized/ridiculed approximately forever. It’s not news, it’s not a revelation, it’s just who he is, and all parties understand that.

    What is a controversy, or perhaps a minor scandal, is that McConnell’s appointment was made by the board after they tossed aside the agreed-upon procedures and process for selecting candidates for the position. The selection committee of various stakeholders declined to name him as a finalist, and did not consider him a qualified candidate. It walks, swims and quacks like a political fix that was predetermined long before the selection committee made its recommendations. By choosing McConnell under these circumstances, the board has effectively trashed the notion of government-by-the-consent-of-the-governed, and acted with a sort of high-handed tyranny that True Southrons keep claiming their ancestors were fighting against a century and a half ago.

  4. Dennis Lawrence April 8, 2014 / 10:47 am

    Colleges are about marketing. Who they are marketing themselves to is why he was chosen.

    • Andy Hall April 8, 2014 / 7:02 pm

      More likely they picked him because, be virtue of his position as a legislator and lieutenant governor, he has valuable connections and he can wheel-and-deal on behalf of the college behind the scenes. That’s not a bad thing for the school, but it’s also (IMO) the role of a chancellor or board chairman. The president, by comparison, is the top administrator there, and it’s unjustifiable to put someone in that role with, as far as I can tell, no background in higher education whatsoever. This should not be amateur hour.

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