by THE SCHOLASTICI || Emails and texts obtained this week by The State through the Freedom of Information Act reveal efforts by University of South Carolina trustees to assert Republican political control over the institution through the election of Robert Caslen to the presidency. The frank exchanges – never intended to be revealed to the public – raise new red flags for USC’s accreditation and further undermine the Board’s claims that they possess the political independence required to serve the university with integrity.
Records reviewed by The State reveal that gubernatorial-appointed trustee Dan Adams responded enthusiastically to a statement by Governor Henry McMaster’s Chief of Staff Trey Walker that “The Democrats hate us. We stole their castle.” Adams replied by noting, “It’s our turn!”
His comment – which documents a clear alliance between Adams and state Governor’s office – is chilling. The Governor’s Chief of Staff clearly states he has actively participated in a seizure of power over our university that was orchestrated in collaboration with a trustee.
The State also reports that trustee Bubba Fennel told trustee Charles Williams that he made the decision to vote for Caslen based on “information” he received from the Fox News network. While Mr. Fennel denies it, someone by the name of “Bubba” wrote that “I watched Fox News and the radical left is trying to control all conservatives on University campuses, including our board,” and that “I was already in favor of Caslen and when the radical left faculty and students ‘threatened’ us several members jumped ship – not me!!”
(Click to view)
(Via: The University of South Carolina)
The fact that a trustee is making choices that will affect over 50,000 students and staff based on something he heard in passing on cable television is disturbing in and of itself. But it should outrage us all that someone empowered to lead USC would equate insistence on following basic university rules and procedures as being “radical” and “threatening.” And he is not the only one who has painted efforts to insist on basic rule-following as extreme.
USC needs leaders – not political lieutenants. We cannot allow our university’s trustees to act as henchmen for the Governor or anyone else. If Henry McMaster and his allies on the Board are concerned that their perspective isn’t being heard on campus they ought to stop playing dirty and come out into the open arena and make the case for what they believe in the old fashioned way. And while they’re at it, they need to start being honest about their true intentions for USC. Now that they have “stolen the castle,” what do they intend to do with it? And why are they so confident that Robert Caslen is the right man to carry out their agenda?
All of this is yet another testimony to the rot that has spread in the darkness of secrecy and impenetrability under which this Board has operated for too long. As long as steps are not taken to root out the good old boy politics that have infested USC’s leadership, the seeds of distrust and discord it has sewn will only continue to grow. And our university’s reputation on the national stage will sink further into the quagmire of corruption this Board has created.
In the words of trustee Charles Williams, “God save the university.”
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