Restraining order blocks USC presidential vote from happening Friday

One trustee says the board only received three days notice of the meeting

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — In the immediate future, the USC Board of Trustees will not be meeting to vote on a new president.

Charles Williams of the USC Board of Trustees filed for a temporary restraining order, which will prevent the board from coming together and choosing a successor to President Harris Pastides Friday.

Williams said he requested a restraining order since he and other trustees only received three days notice for the special meeting.

South Carolina law states that the board needs to know about a meeting at least five days before it is scheduled to take place.

“The point of the law is to give us proper time to understand what’s going on and to be prepared to talk about it in a knowledgeable way. You don’t just call a meeting and the next day, unprepared, and all the sudden find out that the Governor has called and got enough votes to push somebody in,” Williams said.

Williams said Governor Henry McMaster called the special meeting in order for them to vote on General Robert Caslen as the new President of the university.

Just an hour before Judge Robert Hood granted the temporary restraining order, members of the USC Faculty Senate unanimously agreed to call on the board to cancel the meeting while requesting a more transparent process.

“Faculty rarely agree on anything so it’s frankly unusual to have votes that are unanimous. We want the process to be correct for university governance,” said Simon Tarr, a Visual Arts Professor at USC.

Some faculty members said they would not support General Caslen if he was elected. The Faculty Senate unanimously passed a motion that would give the former West Point superintendent a “vote of no confidence.”

“His career trajectory is straight combat arms. That’s wonderful. That makes him a war hero, but it doesn’t make him the President of a large and complicated research university,” said Jennifer Pournelle, a Earth, Ocean, and Environment Professor at USC.

ABC Columbia also received a copy of a letter sent by Governor McMaster to the Chairman of the Board, John C. von Lehe.

Governor McMaster wrote that while he did not call for tomorrow’s meeting, he says he would like it to be Rescheduled at some point in the near future.

McMaster wrote that this would eliminate any unnecessary distractions or concerns concerning the timing of the special meeting.

Meanwhile, Williams said he’s relieved that the meeting will not take place, mainly because he says undue political intervention would put the school’s accreditation at risk. 

“Oh god, you know we have 50,000 students and if we get un-accredited, you’re talking about a disaster. I think today is a win for the people of South Carolina and especially for the University of South Carolina,” said Williams.

Williams says there will be a hearing Friday to see if there’s any dissent to his injunction.

A USC spokesman say no date has been set for the cancelled Board of Trustees meeting.

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