Faculty members at a college in South Carolina want their president to repudiate a Confederate flag event planned at the school in October.
The Post and Courier of Charleston reported the history department at the College of Charleston has asked school president Glenn McConnell to ban events planned by the South Carolina Secessionist Party on campus.
McConnell is a former state Senate leader and lieutenant governor who formerly owned a Confederate memorabilia shop.
The South Carolina Secessionist Party plans to display Confederate battle flags on campus Oct. 28.
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McConnell has mostly avoided discussing the Civil War since becoming college president in 2014.
The faculty said the event is designed to intimidate students, staff and faculty. Secessionist Party founder James Bessenger denies that.
Shortly after 10:30 a.m. on Friday, McConnell issued a statement to the school’s students, alumni and faculty in which he disavowed hate groups, but failed to address the concerns raised by faculty.
“Like much of our country’s history, South Carolina’s past as it relates to race is complicated and emotional,” McConnell said. “There are many wounds – spanning generations – still in need of healing across our state. And we must move forward, rather than look backward.”
McConnell went on to say that students are going to have to be patient and resilient with uncomfortable ideas, which is a “critical part” of inclusion.
“I am certain that our diversity is our greatest strength,” McConnell said. “We, at the College of Charleston, are stronger because we value inclusion. We are stronger because we are working towards a shared future. We are stronger because we seek wisdom – together.”
Friday evening, in a second email of the day, McConnell defended the South Carolina Heritage Act of 2000, the law that he helped craft that prevents localities from removing monuments without legislative approval. Rather than remove monuments to the Confederacy, McConnell said, the state should add context to existing monuments.
“We need for the monuments and memorials to tell both the good and the bad,” he wrote.
He acknowledged his position would not please some student and faculty members who believe Confederate monuments are best left in “history’s dustbin.”
“And that is fine. It is in that disagreement that we witness the true beauty of this institution,” he wrote.
Bessenger denied any attempt to intimidate students.
Bessenger and black nationalist activist Johnathan Thrower, who goes by Shakem Amen Akhet, said Thursday the flag event will include Confederate flags and black nationalist flags.
“The purpose is to force Glenn McConnell to own up to his position regarding Confederate imagery, flags, monuments, because in my opinion and Shakem’s, he’s been riding the fence,” Bessenger said.
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, in 1860. The first shot of the Civil War was fired in Charleston the next year.
The State newspaper contributed to this report.