Students graduating this spring have witnessed numerous changes in the position of university president since 2018, and say they are now looking for a president who prioritizes integrity.
This slew of presidential changes began on Oct. 3, 2018, when then-president Harris Pastides announced his retirement. This led to the university hiring retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Bob Caslen to fill the role.
Less than two years later, Caslen resigned due to a plagiarism scandal, which led to the hiring of Pastides as interim university President. Now, Pastides' second term is coming to an end as former USC Provost Michael Amiridis will begin as the president this summer.
Pastides served his first term as university president from 2008 to 2019, during which time he gained a reputation amongst students for being personable.
This was in part due to his engagement with students through activities such as his Youtube series "Mini Conversations" in which he would drive students around and talk with them.
“As I got into the university, he just seemed like such a pillar of what USC and the student experience was to me,” Cami Aull, a fourth-year international business and management student, said.
The end of Pastides's first term began the cycle of presidential changes, starting with hiring Caslen in July 2019. Caslen's hiring elicited an outcry on campus, with students and faculty alike protesting his hiring.
“I wasn’t the biggest fan of him in the beginning because I didn’t feel like he was the most qualified out of the candidates,” Aull said.
The presidential search process also called USC's accreditation into question, as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) conducted a formal review of his hiring.
Caslen tackled a multitude of issues during his time as president, from starting a commission to rename campus buildings to changing the way Title IX issues are handled at the university.
In May 2021, Caslen plagiarized a portion of his speech at the 2021 graduation and mistakenly referred to the University of South Carolina as the "University of California," causing a national uproar.
“Honestly, that was kind of embarrassing,” third-year art studio student Ethan Smith said. “The person heading our academy should at least be presenting some semblance of effort to write their own speech — let alone address the proper crowd".
Caslen resigned soon after, later calling coming to USC "the biggest regret of (his) life."
The university then brought back Pastides as the interim university President. During this term, students said they have been generally less satisfied with his presidency, which saw increased controversy surrounding sexual misconduct allegations from within the university. There was also outcry that the university was not making more progress to rename campus buildings honoring problematic historic figures.
Now, Pastides' second term is coming to an end with the incoming arrival of President-elect Michael Amiridis.
The selection process for this presidency also faced obstacles as presidential finalist Muang Chiang took his name out of consideration shortly before visiting campus.
Opportunities for USC students and community members to meet Amiridis were announced in a midday email — which did not reveal the candidate's name — sent the day before the vote was taken to elect him. Amiridis was announced as the candidate the morning he was hired and the Q&A sessions for students, faculty and staff were held during regular class hours.
While students remain optimistic about the future of the presidency, they feel as though they should have been more involved in the most recent selection process.
"I don't feel like I'm a part of the process at all," Stephen Hilton, a third-year aerospace engineering student, said.
Now, students look forward to Amiridis' presidency, hopeful that he values the USC community and the safety of those within it.
"I think transparency is the biggest issue," Aidan Thomason, a fourth-year international studies and history student said, adding that she hopes Amiridis will"value integrity in a way that I don't think we have in recent years."