An overview of the search for USC’s next president

The Board of Trustees is set to meet Friday, possibly to vote on a new president

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — Ever since Harris Pastides announced his retirement as the President of USC back in October, the search to find his successor has been eventful. 

Nearly three months ago, several students and faculty wanted the Board of Trustees to hear their voices concerning their disapproval of General Robert Caslen, the former superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. 

Some students pointed to his comments linking sexual assault to binge drinking, as well as his lack of experience working at a research university, as reasons they protested his candidacy.

Even though the Board elected to continue their search, trustee Charles Williams said Governor Henry McMaster called other board members last week to arrange a presidential vote as soon as they could.

Following days of unrest from local leaders, students, and faculty, a Richland County judge granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the meeting from happening since the board did not receive five days notice prior to the scheduled date.

The board ultimately rescheduled the meeting for Friday, July 19.

This week, the University of South Carolina received a letter from the Vice President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

The accreditation organization is calling for USC to provide a report that shows that no external influence altered how the board elected its president.

A spokesperson with SACSCOC says “undue external influence” hurts a board’s ability to make a decision without bias. She also says that if a school loses accreditation, they won’t be able to hand out federal financial aid and that other schools would not accept transfer credits from a student if they attended a non-accredited school.

A USC spokesman says the school will file a formal response by August 10, but also says the letter acknowledges McMaster as the ex officio chair of the board and that the board’s chairman, not the Governor, called for the meeting.

Recently, trustee Chuck Allen wrote that he would not vote for General Caslen as the university’s next president.

Even though he wrote that he was in full support of Gen. Caslen when they first met in April, Allen cited accreditation concerns and lack of faculty and student support as some of the reasons his presidency would not be in the best interest of the university.

A spokesman with Governor McMaster’s office also provided a statement, saying the Governor feels the former West Point superintendent is supremely qualified and is prepared to handle any challenges the university faces.

Some lawmakers, like Sen. Greg Gregory (R-Lancaster County) and Sen. Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington County) have voiced their support for General Caslen, while others, including Mayor Steve Benjamin and Sen. Darrell Jackson (D-Richland County) have voiced their disapproval of how the process has been handled.

An agenda for Friday’s board meeting has not been posted as of Wednesday morning, but a USC spokesperson says it will be made public Thursday morning.

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