Chants from hundreds of impassioned students shouting “This is what democracy looks like!” filled the Cistern Yard this morning during the third protest against Glenn McConnell’s consideration for the position of the College of Charleston’s 22nd president. This is the first protest since he was selected as president elect by the Board of Trustees on Saturday, sparking outrage among the student body.
“This is a political maneuver,” senior Stefan Koester said. “The Board of Trustees is elected and appointed by the governor, and then the Board of Trustees subsequently picks the president. And they so happen to choose the lieutenant governor.”
Although previous protests focused on McConnell’s support of the Confederate flag and other Confederate paraphernalia, his personal ideology has taken a back seat to the perceived political corruption surrounding his appointment. “This has nothing to do with racism at this point anymore at all,” senior Immanuel Houston said.
In fact, the protest seemed not to have much to do with McConnell anymore either. His personal strengths and weaknesses as a candidate were rarely mentioned, and students primarily invoked his name as a symbol of corruption within the Board of Trustees and South Carolina politics at large. Abby Tennenbaum, one of six students who organized the protest over social media said, “I don’t pretend to be an expert on McConnell’s politics or his ethical stances or anything, but I think it’s a very clear representation of a much larger issue that is present throughout politics and we just happen to be at a small enough level that we can see it.”
Koester agreed, saying, “There’s more at play here than just what’s happening at College of Charleston. This is indicative of rampant corruption and the lack of voice the people of South Carolina have in state politics.”
The Board of Trustees, a group of twenty people formerly overlooked by students, finds itself suddenly thrust into the center of political scandal. The Board is comprised of two representatives from each South Carolina congressional district, along with three at-large members elected by the General Assembly, one member appointed from the State at-large by the Governor, one member appointed by the Governor upon recommendation from the College of Charleston Alumni Association, and one member who acts as the Governor or designee. It is given the “final authority and responsibility for the governance of the College of Charleston,” according to its website.
Seven out of thirteen members of the Presidential Search Committee were on the Board of Trustees, which has the ultimate power to appoint the president, regardless of the Search Committee’s decision. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve McConnell’s appointment on March 22, with the exception of Governor’s Appointee Jeff Schilz and Fourth District Representative John Wood, who both abstained.
“[The Board has] clearly shown that they’re incapable of removing themselves, removing their own political bias and their own personal interest from this process, and so they are no longer trusted and the president elect is no longer trusted,” Koester said. Students predict that McConnell’s lack of rapport within the campus community will inhibit his ability to perform well as president, considering that 83 percent of the faculty and over 2,200 students disapprove of his nomination.
“Everyone’s going to be upset with Glenn McConnell when he comes in, so I don’t think he’s going to be able to get much done,” senior Evan Reindhold said. “Or maybe because of this he’ll be sort of a retributionist about this and be like, ‘Well screw you let me show you what I can do.'”
Regardless of whether or not McConnell officially accepts the position, students hope that the movement toward greater transparency in the administration will continue. “For a long time it sort of has been the Board behind doors with students not really knowing or caring what they do, and I hope that this exposes the fact that while there is a disconnect between the financial and administrative decisions behind the College, the students still care about them and we are affected by them,” Tennenbaum said. “It’s ridiculous that twenty people against thousands of students can make a decision.”
The entirety of the student resolution protesting the Board of Trustees can be found here.