USC students protest presidential finalists. Here’s why
Some University of South Carolina students and faculty are criticizing the school for selecting presidential candidates who are predominantly white and all male.
Specifically, 28 student organizations and 46 faculty members faculty signed an open letter that was read aloud during a USC presidential forum. The letter argued the search committee failed to assemble a list of candidates who represent the university’s demographic makeup.
“We are calling on the trustees of this university to add more diverse voices to the search committee,” said Megan Rigabar, a senior at USC, who read aloud from the letter at the presidential forum. “We are calling on this new committee to reform their methods, to fix what caused them to miss qualified women for this position and to return with a diverse pool of candidates that are qualified to lead this university.”
The search committee’s members are largely dictated by the Board of Trustees’ bylaws. The board must include five Board of Trustees members, three faculty representatives, a student representative, an alumni representative and a representative of USC’s charitable foundations, according to the school’s website.
The 11-member search committee included nine men and two women, according to the university’s presidential search page.
The four finalists are: John S. Applegate, professor and executive vice president for university academic affairs in the Indiana University System; Robert L. Caslen Jr., senior counsel to the president and interim chief financial officer at the University of Central Florida; William F. Tate, dean of the graduate school and vice provost for graduate education at Washington University in St. Louis; and Joseph T. Walsh Jr., vice president for research at Northwestern University in Chicago.
“We are not attacking these candidates,” the letter said. “We are criticizing the process that led to their selection.”
Lauryn Workman, a sophomore history major who stood next to Rigabar as she read the letter, said the feedback to the letter has been mostly positive.
“A lot of the faculty have expressed similar dispositions on the candidates,” Workman said.
The push to draft the letter started last Thursday by Rigabar and a classmate, after USC announced the presidential finalists, Workman said.
USC defended its presidential search process, saying the board considered diversity when selecting candidates but picked the four best ones.
“The search committee made a commitment to pursuing a diverse pool of candidates and took proactive steps to make that happen. In fact, our partners at Parker Executive Search deployed an all-female and diverse recruitment team to assist the effort,” USC spokesman Wes Hickman said in a statement. “These four finalists are the leaders that the search committee believes are best qualified to serve as our 29th president.
“While the pool did not result in a female finalist, each of these candidates has expressed a strong commitment to diversity and carrying out the diversity strategy recently approved by our board of trustees,” Hickman said.
But students who supported the open letter were skeptical.
“The thing that’s hard to understand is if the pool was so diverse, than how didn’t we get diverse finalists?” Rigabar told The State.
According to the letter, here is a list of every student organization and faculty member who signed on.
Supporting student organizations: Carolina Film & Television Club; Changing Carolina Peer Leaders; College Democrats of USC; Distressed Children and Infants International; Epsilon Tau Pi-Pi Colony; Gamecocks Aiding Refugees in Columbia; Garnet & Black Magazine; Girls Without Borders; Her Campus; Individuals Respecting Identities and Sexualities; Ink! Undergraduate English Association; International Justice Mission; It’s On Us; Methodist Student Network; Mock Trial Team; Moneythink; Omega Phi Alpha; Planned Parenthood Generation Action; Society of Automotive Engineers; Students for Diversity and Service in Professions; Students for Socialist Action; Third Spur; Timmy Global Health; Waverly After School Program; Women LEAD; Women’s Well-Being Initiative; WUSC FM & HD-1 Columbia; Young Democratic Socialists.
Supporting faculty: Christian K. Anderson, associate professor, Educational Leadership & Policies; Sarah Barker, associate professor, Department of Theater and Dance; Rosemarie Booze, professor of psychology; Kate Boyd, university libraries; Jeanne Britton, curator, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections; Kevin Brock, assistant professor, Department of English; Dawn Campbell, adjunct professor of Women’s and Gender Studies; Victoria Chandler, Instructor and Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English; Lauren Clark, instructor and MFA candidate, Department of English; Debra Rae Cohen, professor, Department of English; Taryn Cooksey, South Caroliniana Library; Liz Countryman, assistant professor, Department of English; Susan Courtney, professor, Department of English and Film and Media Studies Program; Michael Dowdy, associate professor, Department of English; Stanley Dubinsky, professor, Department of English; Graham Duncan, South Caroliniana Library; Josh English, MFA creative writing poetry, instructor, Department of English; Greg Forter, professor, Department of English.
Also, Edward Gieskes, associate professor, Department of English; Brian Glavey, associate professor, Department of English; Carol Harrison, professor, History Department; Alana Hatley, PhD rhetoric & composition, instructor, English Department; Olga Ivashkevich, associate professor of art education, SVAD; Yvonne Ivory, associate professor, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; Tony Jarrells, associate professor, Department of English; Lanie Kendrick, Student Services Advisor, International Accelerator Program, University 150/151 Instructor; Michael J. Kennedy, Instructor and Ph.D. Candidate, English Department; Trey Lawson, Adjunct Instructor, English Department; Seulghee Lee, assistant professor, Program in African American Studies and Department of English; Kathryn Luchok, Research professor, Department of Anthropology/Senior Lecturer, Women’s and Gender Studies; Ed Madden, professor of English, Director of Women’s and Gender Studies Program; Rachel Mann, Instructor and Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English; David Lee Miller, Carolina Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of English; Mēgan Oliver, Digital Collections Librarian, University Libraries; Evren Ozselcuk, Instructor, Department of English and Film and Media Studies Program; Megan Palmer, Librarian, University Libraries; Carla A. Pfeffer, associate professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies; Paige Pinkston, Instructor and Linguistics PhD student, Department of English; Sara Schwebel, professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies; Rebecca Stern, associate professor, Department of English.
Also, Saskia Coenen Snyder, associate professor, Department of History; Travis Wagner, Adjunct Instructor in Library and Information Sciences and Women’s and Gender Studies; Sarah Williams, associate professor, School of Music; Jason Williamson, Instructor, Department of English; Gretchen Woertendyke, associate professor of English, assistant Director of Global Studies; Jaclyn S. Wong, assistant professor of sociology.