Minutes after an email from the Board of Trustees informed the campus community that Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell was appointed as the 22nd President of the College of Charleston, CofC students viscerally reacted over social media voicing their disapproval.
Members of the student body, along with members of the local NAACP chapter, had already protested McConnell’s nomination twice, once prior to his campus visit on March 13 and once the day before his official appointment on March 21. Students are concerned about how his presidency will affect the African American population at the College, which only represents six percent of the student body, given his support of Confederate history and the Confederate flag.
Over chants of “Glenn’s not our man,” a CofC senior protesting his appointment said, “He’s a Confederate enthusiast and we don’t approve of that as a quality or any type of association that we want associated with the College of Charleston as we progress toward a campus that’s inclusive and diverse and celebrates the accomplishments of all people.”
Students additionally protested by posting signs around campus reading “Go home Glenn” and “No Confederates for President,” prompting the administration to ban signage in the buildings where the forums were held (Alumni Hall and Stern Center) during his campus visit.
Aside from McConnell’s extracurricular activities and ideology, students are concerned about the legitimacy of his nomination and his ability to perform as president. Adrian Barry, a senior political science major, said, “There are legitimate concerns about the legitimacy of his candidacy itself considering that after spending $70,000 plus expenses on this nationally prominent consultancy firm to do the actual candidate search, [McConnell] was not on their list after vetting over 100 candidates thoroughly…He was vetted and passed over and in a closed door meeting with the Board of Trustees, his name just popped up on the list.”
As news of his official appointment spread this evening, Facebook and Twitter erupted with negative comments from the student body. One student lamented that “the gool ‘ole boy network has won again” and welcomed McConnell “to the ranks of Mark Sanford,” while a graduating senior, happy to be leaving CofC, said that she “could not be more disgusted with the words and actions of the Board of Trustees” and that she will “have to refrain from financially supporting CofC as long as it has a racist and spineless Board of Trustees that bend to the every whim of homophobic and backwards S.C. politicians.”
Some students took their words to the streets during a protest mere hours after McConnell’s position was announced. Approximately 60 students filled the Cistern Yard in a show of solidarity. Barry said, “There’s really nothing we can do to prevent [his presidency], but I like the idea that we are vocal about our discontent.”
Student Government Association Vice President Chris Piedmont reminded students after the protest that nothing is yet set in stone and they should continue to make their voices heard. SGA is planning a special Senate session this Tuesday where students are encouraged to attend and take the floor.
With Accepted Students Weekend coming to a close, students considering the College now have a new dimension to add to their decision – do they want former Lt. Gov. McConnell to lead their college considering his controversial status? There is more to this decision than just politics. One senior foresaw that McConnell’s appointment will affect future classes at the College, saying, “This is ultimately going to affect our student population.”