SC lawmakers react to Gov. McMaster’s call for a USC presidential vote

Some say they support the Governor's decision, but some think it sends a wrong message

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —Several state lawmakers are reacting to Governor Henry McMaster’s (R-SC) role in calling a sudden meeting for the Board of Trustees to pick a new president at USC. 

Senator Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland County) is one of several South Carolina senators who say General Robert Caslen is not the right person to lead the University of South Carolina.

“I think we need someone who is looking to the future, not looking as this as a retirement job. We’re not hiring a greeter at Wal-Mart, we’re hiring a president for the flagship educational institute in the state,” said Sen. Harpootlian.

Trustee Charles Williams says Governor McMaster pushed the board to hold a meeting Friday to vote for Caslen.

A spokesman with Governor McMaster’s office says the Governor has no comment at this time. 

When he spoke with ABC Columbia Tuesday, Williams said 82% of students and faculty who met with Caslen did not give him favorable reviews.

However, Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington County) say the reports cited by Williams do not tell the whole story about the former West Point superintendent.

“I’m quite certain that’s not 82% of the 50,000 students at the University of South Carolina. We need someone that’s going to be a good leader of the university, someone who’s going to represent the university well, someone that we could be proud of when he goes out and represents the university, I think he is the perfect person for that position,” said Sen. Shealy.

Several Senators took to Twitter to voice their opinions of the Governor’s role in calling for the election. Senator Darrell Jackson (D-Richland County) said he’s disappointed in the Governor, while Senator Karl Allen (D-Greenville County) says going against what the board decided in April sends the message to student leaders that their voices do not matter.

Meanwhile, Sen. Greg Gregory (R-Lancaster County) tweeted his support for the Governor and Gen. Caslen, saying a “hard-nosed leader” will best help USC face challenges in the years to come.

Some say they think the presidential search issue stems from having too many voices at the table. 

“I think a smaller board would be more engaged, it would be much more effective and efficient,” said Sen. Harpootlian.

Sen Harpootlian, along with Sen. Jackson and Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee County), are co-sponsors of a bill that would cut the USC Board of Trustees in half.

Senator Shealy says the bill should apply to all of the state universities in South Carolina.

Senator Harpootlian says less divisiveness will make presidential searches go smoother.

“This whole process of picking a successor to President Pastides has not gone well. It’s just proving to us what we thought from the beginning, which is the board can’t move in one direction,” said Sen. Harpootlian.

Williams said the board did not vote on whether Caslen would become the president back in April. He said they came to a consensus that they would not vote, and instead continue the search while installing USC Upstate Chancellor Brendan Kelly as the Interim President.

The USC Board of Trustees will be meeting Friday morning at 10 a.m. at the Alumni Center. 

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