Watch: USC Student Government forum discusses upcoming Caslen vote
The University of South Carolina is facing a formal inquiry from its accreditation agency over “undue influence” in the search for a new president.
USC received a letter addressed to President Harris Pastides from The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) on Monday evening asking for a formal response on whether Gov. Henry McMaster’s involvement in the school’s presidential search violates SACS policies.
Accreditation allows a school to secure federal funding and provides legitimacy to the school’s programs.
Last week, The State reported SACS was considering taking action against USC for McMaster’s involvement in the presidential search, but this letter represents the first formal action the accrediting agency has taken. McMaster had been calling USC’s board of trustees members pressuring them to cast a vote on former U.S. Military Academy at West Point Superintendent Robert Caslen, according to a previous article from The State.
SACS policies prohibit board members from being subjected to “undue influence,” according to USC’s website.
“I am aware that the South Carolina State Statues designates the Governor as the Ex Officio Chairman of the board. However, your bylaws also state that it is the responsibility of the individual board members to recognize that the legal authority of the board to govern and direct the university system rests with the collective board and not individual board members,” according to the letter, which was signed by SACS Vice President Linda Thomas-Glover.
USC has until Aug. 10 to submit a report to SACS documenting how it has complied with standards prohibiting “undue influence” in board decisions.
The possibility of repercussions from SACS is one of the many potential unintended consequences of the governor’s involvement and the subsequent response from faculty and staff. The University of Iowa had a similar situation where a university presidential finalist was rejected by faculty and student government and that ended in formal sanctions from the American Association of University Professors.