South Carolina Provost’s Message To Presidential Dissenters: Surrender

A safe space white flag manifesto?

Earlier this week, our news outlet reported on efforts within the University of South Carolina to silence critics of newly elected school president Robert L. Caslen.

Caslen was chosen to lead South Carolina last month amidst a cacophony of resistance from faculty, staff, students and donors (including the school’s top donor). His candidacy was doggedly advanced by old-school governor Henry McMaster – who mounted a successful summer stealth campaign to install Caslen after his detractors successfully shot him down for the job back in the spring.

The campaign – which has accrued to McMaster’s political benefit – was totally unexpected seeing as Caslen had effectively taken himself out of the running months earlier.

“Who would want to go back to an environment like that?” Caslen told reporter Lucas Daprile of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper back in April.

As we noted in our report, anti-Caslen constituencies are now struggling to find common ground in the aftermath of his selection by a bitterly divided university board of trustees.

From our report …

Battle lines are already being drawn within the anti-Caslen “opposition.” And the debate over whether to fall in line or keep the fires burning is intensifying as the school approaches a pair of key deadlines. In two weeks (on Friday, August 16), faculty are scheduled to report to campus. The following week (on Thursday, August 22), the fall semester is scheduled to begin.

Weighing in on this battle recently was Tayloe Harding, the school’s interim provost. In a letter that sounds exactly like something you would expect from a besieged “safe space” on an increasingly liberal campus, Harding recalls the tumult of the recently concluded presidential selection process.

“Virtually every one of us has experienced anxiety of one kind or another during this period, and that includes me,” he wrote.

Triggered, in other words.

What to do about it, though?

According to Harding, nothing. His letter encouraged faculty and staff “to focus on advancing what we have rather than lamenting on what we do not.”

What does that mean exactly?

“Just as we love (South Carolina) for being the nurturing and enduring home to great faculty, students, staff and alumni all searching for meaning in our lives and the lives of others through learning and sharing, we also love it despite what we sometimes feel is unjust in its direction or curious in its approach,” he wrote.

Mmmm-kay …

(Click to view)

(Via: Provided)

“For many of us this will take some thought and space – some of you feel to your core that those who govern our work have abandoned principle,” Harding’s letter continued. “Others feel entirely differently about principle.”

Sheesh … is this letter going anywhere?

“No matter how each of us feels about principle, there is a distasteful air of current concern for what we do not have that can seize us if we let it; and that, I hope you will all agree, is not something our students, our state, our donors or our global stakeholders are paying for or expecting from us,” Harding wrote.

Translation? Caslen opponents must stand down …

Hiking the white flag further, he goes on to write that now “is not the time to sacrifice our motto in order for us to feel like we are on the right side of our discord with one another.”

Spoken like a guy who places a low premium on principle, huh?

Make no mistake: We understand where Harding (and others expressing similar sentiments) are coming from. They are seeking to mitigate the damage done to their school by a disastrously divisive presidential search process. We can certainly appreciate that perspective, too.

But will their touchy-feely appeal to resistors to abandon their principles do the trick? Will it successfully mute dissent of the incoming Caslen administration?

Doubtful …

(Click to view)

(Via: U.S. Armed Forces)

As we noted earlier this week, Caslen is “entering an environment in which most of his core constituencies are aligned against him.” Not to mention an environment in which many of these constituencies appear poised to take further swipes at him.

Is he up for such a challenge?

Once again, given our steadfast support for the privatization of higher education in the Palmetto State (and beyond) we did not weigh in on Caslen’s candidacy. To do so would have been hypocritical on our part.

“Such disputes should be resolved within the marketplace of ideas, not by point-scoring politicians,” we wrote at the time.

Clearly, though, Caslen is staring at a potentially unscalable wall of “institutional opposition” – one that will take a lot more than flowery letters to overcome.



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