University of South Carolina president Robert Caslen is under fire following an erratic commencement address during which he slurred his words, couldn’t remember the name of his own school and appeared to mock the pastor who delivered the ceremony’s invocation.
Caslen’s bizarre behavior – which fueled rumors that he was drunk (or otherwise under the influence) – took place during commencement exercises for the Darla Moore school of business, the Arnold school of public health and the university’s school of music.
“It now my honor and privilege to officially congratulate you as the newest alumni from the University of California,” Caslen said during the ceremony.
Audible gasps were heard from those in attendance as Caslen misidentified his own school.
“South Carolina,” a university official whispered to Caslen.
“Carolina!” Caslen exclaimed, correcting himself. “Sorry about that.”
“Woooooo!” Caslen added. “I owe you push-ups.”
Take a look …
(Click to view)
In addition to slurring his words, Caslen encountered repeated difficulty reading the text provided to him for the ceremony – which was held at 6:00 p.m. EDT on Friday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Later during his remarks, Caslen – who is known to have an affinity for scotch – appeared to mock reverend Tom Wall of United Methodist Church of Columbia, S.C. Wall delivered the invocation at Friday’s ceremonies.
“I’m not sure who you were talking to reverend, but thank you very much,” Caslen said.
Here is that excerpt …
(Click to view)
Just … wow.
Not surprisingly, reviews of Caslen’s “uneven” performance were … not good.
“This is beyond embarrassing,” one South Carolina supporter tweeted, referring to Caslen’s comments as an “absolutely atrocious look” for the school.
“That is unforgivable,” another wrote.
I reached out to several sources close to Caslen on Saturday morning for comment. None of them were willing to address the situation. Nor were they willing to discuss whether Caslen – a retired lieutenant general and the former commandant at West Point – was drunk or high during the ceremony.
“Just one of those things,” one of these sources told me.
You could say that. Or, you could say that Caslen – who was controversially chosen for this post two years ago – was completely out of his gourd.
South Carolina governor Henry McMaster – who led the charge to appoint Caslen over the objections of a divided board of trustees – joined the embattled president at Friday’s ceremonies.
“Honored to have delivered the commencement address at my alma mater,” McMaster tweeted on Saturday morning. “To the graduates, never stop learning, always ask questions, and face every challenge with courage and strength. Congratulations on your achievement!”
Yeah. Face every challenge … like remembering the name of the school.
McMaster has yet to address the Caslen fiasco, incidentally. An email sent to his spokesman Brian Symmes seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Adding a layer of intrigue to this undignified performance? Last month, Caslen was eviscerated by Moore – the namesake of the business school and the university’s largest donor – after his administration failed to acknowledge the passing of her mother.
“I continue to be embarrassed and humiliated by my association with you and all you so disgracefully and incompetently display to the community you are charged to serve and to whom you look for support,” Moore wrote in a letter to school officials.
She went on to say that “the deepest regret of my life is the effort and resources I have expended on your behalf.”
Personally, I cannot wait to hear Moore’s thoughts on Caslen’s disgraceful appearance …
As I have frequently noted, Caslen’s administration has been an unmitigated disaster – continuing the school’s stagnant academics, backsliding athletics, liberal indoctrination and all manner of taxpayer-funded speculation. Obviously all of these things were taking place at South Carolina before Caslen became president … but he has done absolutely nothing to right the ship.
So much for the vaunted “Republican” takeover of this university … which was touted by McMaster’s chief of staff, Trey Walker, after the governor’s office successfully installed Caslen as president.
The more things change … although the same could be said for GOP control of the state, which has resulted in obscene government growth, regressive tax hikes, unchecked crony capitalism and disastrous government meddling in the private sector … on multiple fronts.
Sadly, no one is ever held accountable … for any of it.
Speaking of which, when it comes to the university board members who have presided over South Carolina’s ongoing experiment in terminal velocity, lawmakers have routinely threatened to oust them over their perpetually poor stewardship of the school … yet continue to reappoint them.
UPDATE: I would say “hold my beer,” but … whatever expression you choose, it just got a lot worse for Caslen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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