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University Of South Carolina Trustees Clear Key Hurdle

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After being denied reappointment last spring, five trustees of the results-challenged University of South Carolina were approved by a legislative panel on Tuesday – the first day of the new session of the S.C. General Assembly.

Trustees C. Edward “Eddie” Floyd, C. Dorn Smith III, John C. von Lehe, Charles H. Williams and Thad Westbrook all received the backing of the panel – clearing a path for state lawmakers to vote on their candidacies early next month.

All five trustees are veteran members of the South Carolina board. Floyd has been a trustee since 1982, while von Lehe has been on the board since 1998. Smith, Williams and Westbrook – the current chairman of the board – have all been trustees since 2010.

Last spring, all five men received a vote of no confidence from lawmakers. On Tuesday, however, the legislature’s college and university screening commission cleared them with only a smattering of dissenting votes.

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Dick Harpootlian (Travis Bell Photography)

During confirmation hearings last year, state senator Dick Harpootlian elicited some damning admissions from the trustees – especially from Floyd. Specifically, the Florence, S.C. physician (and influential GOP kingmaker) admitted using his influence to get the former dean of the South Carolina law school to accept a student who initially failed to qualify for the school.

According to Floyd, the student’s father was a “personal friend.”

“Such brazen favoritism happens all the time in South Carolina … no one ever admits to it, though,” I noted at the time, calling on Floyd to step down.

The vote of no confidence last year came a day after I excoriated lawmakers for “their perpetual inaction in holding results-challenged political appointees accountable.”

Do any of these trustees deserve additional time at the helm of the Palmetto State’s “flagship” institution of higher learning? I do not believe so. As I noted last year, trustees have presided over soaring tuition costs, unsustainable student debt, failed “economic development” deals, backsliding athletics and the ongoing indoctrination of future generations into the far left’s “new orthodoxy.” 

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Regular members of our audience will recall how the board set itself on fire during the rigged search process that resulted in the hiring of its former president, retired U.S. Army general Robert Caslen.

Caslen was controversially tapped for the South Carolina job after governor Henry McMaster – a member of this dysfunctional body – worked with powerful allies on the board to convince a narrow majority of trustees to appoint him. This scandal-scarred search process – which enraged students, faculty and staff – nearly resulted in sanctions for the school.

Caslen’s tenure ended controversially in May of 2021 when he resigned amid plagiarism allegations.

Of interest? Two weeks ago, Caslen tweeted a link to a recent commencement speech he gave which appears to include familiar excerpts from a speech he is alleged to have previously plagiarized. I am referring to this speech given by retired lieutenant colonel Randolph C. White to graduating infantrymen at Fort Benning, Georgia in August of 2006.

Old habits die hard, right?

A solution to the ongoing political mismanagement of our colleges and universities? Easy: Privatize higher education completely – which I have been arguing for years.

“Higher education must be immediately and permanently privatized,” I wrote back in 2018. “No more government appropriations, period.  Furthermore, student loans in this country must be issued based on what the market determines to be an acceptable level of risk, not a federal guarantee.  Anything short of this will only add more destructive force to a ticking time bomb that has become an existential threat to the American economy.”

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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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1 comment

Rob January 31, 2023 at 9:10 pm

The easier solution is to term limit trustees to no more than 12 years and include a mandatory retirement age of 72.

There is no reason- except for ego- that a man should serve as a trustee for 40 years. It’s disgraceful for Floyd to do such a thing.

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