CofC students go quiet in protest of presidential pick

College of Charleston students staged a silent sit-in on Wednesday to protest the board of trustees and its selection of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the college’s next president.
College of Charleston students staged a silent sit-in on Wednesday to protest the board of trustees and its selection of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the college’s next president.
(Photo by Ashley Barker)
By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published March 27, 2014

About 65 College of Charleston students took their concerns over the board of trustees straight to the office of the president.

A newly created group called “Fight for CofC” gathered Wednesday afternoon for a silent sit-in at Randolph Hall, the building where current President George Benson works and the board meets. Last weekend, the board chose Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell to become the next president of the college, and some members of the community are outraged.

“My generation isn’t expected to stand up for things because we haven’t had to,” CofC student Abigail Pozulp, who is graduating in May, said. “Even though I won’t be personally witnessing what will happen if Glenn McConnell and the board of trustees went on in the direction they are heading, I invested my time here to represent College of Charleston.”

Pozulp, who is from Chicago, said she doesn’t want to have to make apologies for the future actions of the board.

Current College of Charleston President George Benson ate a slice of pizza with protesters after a two-hour silent sit-in was finished. (Photo by Ashley Barker)
Current College of Charleston President George Benson ate a slice of pizza with protesters after a two-hour silent sit-in was finished.
(Photo by Ashley Barker)
“I don’t want to have to regret or make excuses and say ‘Oh well, I went to College of Charleston before that,’” she said. “I’m not sure that enough of the students realize their own ability to change this. The board of trustees has made it very clear that our individual interests are not something they’re going to pay attention to.”

Fight for CofC held a protest earlier this week and has a walkout planned for Friday afternoon. The members are opposed to the “tainted and secretive process” by which the board selected McConnell, according to the group’s website. They don’t believe the board considered their opposition to McConnell when they were deliberating.

Members support a recent Student Government Association bill that expresses no confidence in the board and demands a $100,000 refund of the money spent on the presidential search committee.

“Two finalists, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell and Dr. Dennis ‘Jody’ Encarnation, were speculated to not be on the search committee’s recommendation list to the board of trustees,” the bill reads. “If the board of trustees veered from the recommendations given by the search committee, the board should refund the $100,000 to the foundation.”

While Fight for CofC members sat on the hardwood floors of Randolph Hall with duct tape across their mouths, the outgoing president peeked in twice. During his first visit, Benson told the group that he appreciated their love for the college, which was met with claps. When the sit-in was complete, the students and Benson ate pizza together in the Cistern.

At least two faculty members also visited the group. Tom Heeney, an associate professor in communication studies, whispered “Thank you” to the protesters, and visiting professor Jeanette Guinn gave them all a thumbs-up.

“I think it’s good that they are expressing their opinions and their love for the college,” Guinn said.

McConnell met with at least one Student Government Association representative earlier this week. He said he’s going to spend his time talking to different groups, learning about their concerns and figuring out the college’s structure before he becomes president.

Ted Stern was president of CofC when McConnell was a student and Student Government Association president. McConnell said Stern included him and other students in forthcoming decisions.

“He gave me that courtesy, and I’m going to give that same courtesy back,” McConnell said. “Some of the people who have voiced concerns about me have never met me and don’t know me. They have a right to their opinion, and the board has a right to their opinion. I will be judged by the job I do.”

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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