Some USC students plan to protest Gov. McMaster’s involvement in presidential search

Some University of South Carolina students intend to protest Gov. Henry McMaster’s involvement in the school’s presidential search.

Ethan Magnuson, a student who helped organize protests against former West Point Superintendent Robert Caslen in April, said 20 students have told him they intend to protest USC board of trustees’ Friday meeting where members are scheduled to cast a vote on whether Caslen should be USC’s next president.

“I don’t know if we’re going to break 100, but we’re going to try,” Magnuson said. “It really depends on who is going to be in Columbia.”

It seemed as if the board was preparing to move on from Caslen and the three other presidential finalists that came as a result of its $137,000 failed presidential search. However, a USC trustees said Tuesday that McMaster pressured the board to call a Friday meeting to vote on Caslen.

Students were particularly frustrated that this was all happening while many students and faculty are not in Columbia.

“It’s kind of cowardice,” said Darius York, a sophomore who helped organize the protests against Caslen in April.

“If there is a protest on Friday I will go and have my voice heard,” York said. “We are not backing down.”

Students who protested Caslen being a finalist in April took issue with his role in the Iraq War, his support for Contras in Nicaragua and his comments about alcohol and sexual assault (although those comments may have been taken out of context), according to previous articles from The State.

While April’s protests took the form of students chanting and holding signs inside the Pastides Alumni Center on Senate Street, it’s unclear how this protest would look. Lyric Swinton, who helped organize the April protests, said there is a “strong possibility” there will be a protest, but it’s too early to say how many people would attend or how exactly the students would demonstrate.

The activism isn’t limited to just students. Carl Wells, the president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association at USC, has started a petition calling on the board of trustees to continue searching for new presidential finalists.

The petition launched at roughly 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. By 2:30 p.m., 117 people had responded, Wells said.

“I think the students and the faculty have moved on,” Wells said. “To now call for a vote on a candidate who did not receive good comments... is an unfortunate move on the part of South Carolina.”