A top candidate for the next university president withdrew his name from consideration this weekend.
Mung Chiang, who The Post and Courier reported was the university's top pick, withdrew due to family considerations, according to a statement USC released from Chiang on Sunday.
Chiang is Purdue University’s executive vice president for strategic initiatives and its engineering dean, according to a biography published on Purdue University's College of Engineering website. The Daily Gamecock could not immediately reach Chiang for comment.
"The 21 members of the Presidential Candidate Search Committee, along with the Board of Trustees, were united in their enthusiasm for Dr. Chiang, after interviewing him in November," the university said in an email statement on Dec. 6.
Before Chiang withdrew his name, he was set to meet with students, faculty and staff on Dec. 9. Chiang will no longer be meeting with anyone on Dec. 9, university spokesperson Jeff Stensland confirmed.
There is no additional information about the Dec. 9 meeting at this time, Stensland said in a text to The Daily Gamecock.
Dec. 9 is in the middle of final exam week, which is Dec. 6 to Dec. 13.
Stensland declined to share how many candidates are currently in the running to become the next university president. He also declined to share the identities of any candidates.
Chairman of the Presidential Search Committee Thad Westbrook told the faculty senate on Dec. 1, that there was one preferred candidate.
The presidential search committee began interviewing 20 candidates in early November, according to reporting by The State.
The search process has already come under scrutiny, as USC donor and the owner of the Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation Lou Kennedy resigned from the presidential search committee in November.
The incident occurred while the committee interviewed candidates for the position of university president.
Carol Harrison, the president of USC's chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), said she would have liked more finalists to come to campus.
"You learn a lot about a candidate by seeing him or her on campus, interacting with the university's executive leadership, their faculty, their students. And I'm sorry we didn't have the opportunity to do that," Harrison said.
The previous presidential search, which resulted in hiring former university President Bob Caslen, was full of controversy.
Because of concerns "related to the propriety of the 2018-19 presidential search and undue external influence in the search itself," the accrediting board reviewed the presidential search process.
In its review, the university's accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), found in early 2020 that the presidential search process for hiring Caslen breached two standards.
In response to this, the university enacted multiple changes to its presidential search process, according to its monitoring report to the SACSCOC.
"The Board has enacted multiple innovations: a Code of Conduct and Oath of Office for Trustees, a policy for protecting the Board and USC System from external influence, a policy outlining the fiduciary duties of Trustees, a revised orientation program for new Trustees, and a new continuing education curriculum for Trustees," the monitoring report said. "The Board has revised its committee structure, and the new Governance Committee will serve as the body for further assessment and revisions of governance policies and procedure."
After making these changes, the university was removed from monitoring status in early 2021.
"While only time, and the opportunity to conduct a new presidential search, will tell whether these changes made the intended difference, the charge to the Special Committee was to assess whether the enacted changes offer reasonable strong protection against a similar crisis occurring in the future," the SACSCOC said in response to USC's monitoring report.
SACSCOC has no complaints about the current presidential search process, a representative told The Daily Gamecock on Monday.
The Daily Gamecock was unable to reach representatives from the board of trustees prior to publication.
Editor's note: This is a developing story. This article was last updated Dec. 6 at 5:21 p.m.
Tyler Fedor contributed to reporting in this article.