Outgoing University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides said Sunday it’s time for students, faculty and alumni to “begin the healing and reconciliation” after the the controversial selection of new president Robert Caslen, which drew chants of “Shame!” from protesters and an inquiry from the university’s accrediting body.
Despite protests from faculty, alumni, students and several politicians, USC’s board of trustees voted 11-8 Friday to hire Caslen, the former superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His selection came after S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster pressured board members to hold a vote for Caslen, with the initial July 12 vote being pushed back by court order.
“Today begins the next meaningful chapter in the history of our beloved University,” Pastides said in a statement posted to the university’s Facebook page. “I know Bob Caslen well from national committee work at the NCAA, and I have talked with him and offered him my congratulations. Patricia and I look forward to welcoming Bob and his wife, Shelly, to the Carolina community.
“There is no doubt that the last few months have been difficult and have strained relations within our Carolina family,” Pastides continued. “From time to time that happens in every family, and I know we will show the world the strength of the ties that bind us together. Let’s pledge to work together to begin the healing and reconciliation as we seek to move our great University forward.”
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which oversees USC’s accreditation, sent a formal letter to the school asking for answers on McMaster’s involvement in the process and warning that “undue influence” could affect the school’s accreditation, The State has reported. The letter requested a response from USC by Aug. 10.