CofC leaders question presidential selection process

By Ashley Barker
Published April 21, 2014

Members of the College of Charleston Presidential Search Committee were concerned about the integrity of the selection process even before Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell was chosen.

Seven search committee members had written a letter to CofC board of trustees Chairman Greg Padgett on Feb. 25, three days before the board met to narrow its list of candidates to five.

The committee had already met with 10 candidates and engaged in “discussion that was thoughtful, painful, personal and insightful,” the letter said. In the letter, the members narrowed their suggested list to five and said the five finalists had “clear majority support from committee members.”

The College of Charleston board of trustees met on March 22 and voted to offer S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell the college presidency. (Photo by Ashley Barker)
The College of Charleston board of trustees met on March 22 and voted to offer S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell the college presidency. (Photo by Ashley Barker)
The letter also addressed rumors that the candidate list would be modified.

“These rumors beg the questions — Is the integrity of the process we worked under being assaulted? If a politicization of this process occurs, the consequences will be far-reaching,” the letter said. “No reputable search firm will work for the college, thus damaging our ability to recruit quality faculty, staff, deans or future presidents.”

The top five list, which has not been disclosed, was given to the board of trustees, which met on Feb. 28 to vote on which five would continue in the process.

The board’s list eventually included McConnell, Dennis “Jody” Encarnation, Martha Saunders, Andrew Card — who dropped out of the race days later — and one other undisclosed candidate.

During the board vote, trustee Jeff Schilz said he voted against the motion, according to the Feb. 28 meeting minutes.

“I am voting for the slate of candidates that was advanced to the board by the search committee,” he said. “Because of the strong consensus for the candidates the search committee sent the board of trustees and out of respect for their work, I am voting for those candidates.”

Trustee John Wood said that he did not vote in favor of the selected slate of candidates, the meeting minutes said.

The letter to Padgett also said the board of trustees would “lose the confidence of nearly every constituent group on campus” if it did not follow the committee’s recommendations. Since McConnell’s appointment, the college’s Faculty Senate and Student Government Association both approved no-confidence resolutions against the board, and students have held a handful of protests.

“We do not want our advice and recommendations confused with a decision to bring less qualified candidates forward due to outside influences who are not familiar with the incredible pool of candidates who were considered for the office of the president for the College of Charleston,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by Lynn Cherry, speaker of the faculty; Otto German, assistant athletic director for compliance; Jordan Hensley, Student Government Association president; Sharon Kingman, CofC Foundation board chairwoman; Steven Swanson, comprehensive campaign chairman; Fran Welch, School of Education, Health and Human Performance dean; and Pamela Riggs-Gelasco, chairwoman of the chemistry and biology departments.

Emails suggest conspiracy theory

CofC released two emails that Kingman had written to Padgett and Elizabeth Kassebaum, executive secretary to the board, the day after the board of trustees voted on its top five candidates.

“Integrity seems to take a back seat these days for the search process,” Kingman wrote in one email. “A sham search is the least I could reference.”

In another, she wrote about a conspiracy theory involving McConnell and Encarnation. Kingman wrote that it was known that Card was not interested in being part of a “larger group” and that he would only agree to be part of the final group if he was in serious contention.

“I would assume he is furious about getting his name leaked to the press. What if he drops out? Then there are four,” she wrote. “The remaining qualified candidates drop out due to a lack of integrity, transparency, honesty, and why get involved in such a corrupt system as S.C. politics and state agencies.”

She also wrote that if others dropped out, only McConnell and Encarnation would remain in the hunt.

“Glenn comes in as president, taking his $180k, but giving part of it back as scholarships. For the three years he is president. Jody is provost. Glenn retires, taking his $180k for life, and goes on to the supreme court. No search firm will touch us for the reasons listed above. Jody becomes president,” Kingman wrote.

Such a scenario, she warned, would make Encarnation and McConnell happy while leaving “students, faculty, donors and community shaking their heads and holding tight to their checkbooks.”

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

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