Following the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally on Aug. 11-12, College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell sent out two emails to the student body addressing the issue and the College’s future stance.
What did the first email say?
- McConnell condemned the beliefs of neo-Nazi hate groups and white supremacists
- The College offered condolences to victims and their families
- Recounted the College’s fraught relationship with race
- Reiterated the seven core values of this institution
- Asked the students to endure the uncomfortable ideas that may surround them in the hopes of becoming better critical thinkers
- Assured students that the College will be safe for a diverse student body, without blocking or limiting free speech
Why was there a second email?
- The South Carolina Secessionist Party (SCSP) plans to host a “flagging” at the College on Oct. 28, during which they will fly confederate flags through campus in McConnell’s honor
- Several members of the College of Charleston community, including the History Department, spoke up asking McConnell to publicly denounce the event
What did the second email accomplish?
- Dismissed the SCSP as a “fringe political group” and denounced the “honor” being paid to McConnell directly
- Assured students that the campus would remain safe, even if that means banning the SCSP from campus
- Addressed the several-day delay between the event announcement and the email by stating that McConnell did not want to rush a statement and did not want to provide the SCSP with a larger audience by naming them
- Stated that “flagging” events are protected until there is a threat of violence and McConnell would respect “freedom of speech, even when that speech is horrible”
- Addressed his work on the Heritage Act of 2000 and support for confederate flags and monuments
- College of Charleston Provost Brian McGee insisted that the College’s stance, as expressed in McConnell’s emails, remained timely while wholeheartedly denouncing white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups
What happens next?
- The SCSP offered to host a debate on the College’s campus instead, an idea which McConnell denounced
- The SCSP continues to plan the event, “demanding a clear and concise answer from Glenn McConnell as to where his loyalties truly lie in the ongoing debate over Confederate Heritage”
- College of Charleston Provost Brian McGee stated that “As long as they continue to adhere to reasonable regulations they will have the opportunity to say terrible things and we’ll have the opportunity to say things right back at them”