The Daily Gamecock

Column: It's time to hold USC accountable as presidential search likely comes to an end

<p>University of South Carolina banners line the walkways of the Horseshoe at sunrise.&nbsp;</p>

University of South Carolina banners line the walkways of the Horseshoe at sunrise. 

The university continued its pattern of keeping important things from students when a last-minute meeting with the potential new president of the university was announced with less than 24 hours of notice

The search to find a new university president is likely to end on Friday as USC announces its top candidate, holds an open meeting with that candidate and discusses "Presidential Election" during its afternoon board of trustees meeting. 

The board of trustees has been tight-lipped about information since former university President Bob Caslen resigned in May amid controversy and Harris Pastides, the university president prior to Caslen, became the interim university President

Although it is under no legal obligation to be more open about the search process, the university has not willingly released any candidate names yet. 

In December, The Post and Courier was the first to report that Purdue University's engineering dean Mung Chiang was USC's preferred candidate — before Chiang dropped out. Even before Chiang's name was publicized and he dropped out, the university conveniently scheduled a meeting with students, faculty and staff in the middle of finals week

Now, USC is not releasing the name of its candidate until the morning of its meeting with USC community members. However, The Post and Courier reported former USC Provost Michael Amiridis is currently the top candidate. 

“Neither state law nor University policy requires that any candidate meet publicly with stakeholders for any personnel search," The Post and Courier's Andy Shain reported the board of trustees said on Dec. 6. 

While the board has no legal obligations to release the name of presidential candidates, it does have an obligation to its students. This president is supposed to represent the student body and our university. 

If the stakeholders and the public don’t get to vet the candidates, what’s stopping the candidate from embarrassing the university like Caslen did in both his commencement speech and comments afterward, calling going to USC "the biggest regret of his life"? 

The events of Caslen's short presidency added insult to injury after the board of trustees ignored students and members of the Columbia community in their dislike of Caslen. Students protested against the former president due to his “lack of a terminal degree and lack of experience with a university like USC,” according to former reporting by The Daily Gamecock. 

Luke Rankin, the student body president at the time, asked the board of trustees to not elect Caslen. 

"His record deeply troubles the student body, faculty and staff, and many members of the Carolina community,” Rankin said

By announcing key meetings on short notice, the university has made it difficult for students and other stakeholders to get other information about the search. This week, the board called a special meeting and spent the entire time in executive session before announcing Friday's meeting with the finalist and the following board of trustees meeting with less than a day of notice. 

Not only is the meeting with the presidential candidate — which is supposed to give the community time to question and comment on the finalist — on short notice, but it is also when more than 200 classes are scheduled, according to Self Service Carolina. That leaves many students and faculty members unable to attend these meetings.

This pattern of keeping the students out of the loop and completely disregarding their opinions has happened repeatedly. Instances such as keeping people like David Voros and Robert Richmond, who have faced sexual misconduct charges, on paid leave while barred from campus proves student sentiment and safety does not outrank the administration's desires. 

The university was under pressure at the beginning of the fall semester to terminate Voros after placing him on the spring 2022 schedule to teach online classes, which was only changed when students noticed and protested on campus.

The student body has also fought in favor of renaming buildings on campus that are named after defenders of slavery and segregation, like the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center and the Wade Hampton residence hall in Women's Quad. The university has ignored student protests time and time again to rename these buildings and lied about seeking advice from the Presidential Commission on University History

USC continually proves that it is dishonest and doesn't care about its student's feelings. The university has put students' needs second time and time again. When faculty members take advantage of young women and men, and we call for their removal, the abusers get paid leave

When we want to acknowledge and move away from the university’s racist past, so minority students that represent 24.6% of this campus can feel safe and respected, we are lied to and ignored. 

When we want a say in who the next university president is, we get secrets and closed doors before extremely short windows of opportunity. 

This presidential search process is just the latest display of disregard for the student body. It probably won’t be the last. It’s time to hold the place we will all call our home responsible and make it one that we are proud of. 


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