College of Charleston leader urges end to ‘speculation’ in presidential search

ashain@thestate.comFebruary 14, 2014 

The chairman of the College of Charleston’s trustees discounted reports Friday that Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell was not among the list of top finalists to succeed outgoing President George Benson.

In a letter emailed across campus, Greg Padgett, who also heads the presidential search committee, said: “I assure you that the presidential search process has been conducted appropriately, and that the board of trustees is on schedule in its discussion of potential finalists for the position. Any reports to the contrary are inaccurate and should be ignored.”

He said search committee members, including trustees, and student and faculty representatives, have signed confidentiality agreements.

The search committee has sent names of candidates for the post to trustees, which will choose finalists, Padgett said. He did not say how many names were submitted, adding deliberations are underway. No timetable for a decision was released.

“In a confidential search process, it is always possible that speculation will lead to incorrect information,” Padgett wrote. “I ask you to put aside speculation and rumors that you may hear or read, and to know that the process put in place will result in the board of trustees, with the input of the College of Charleston community, identifying the best person to serve as the next president of the college.”

Padgett did not name McConnell in the letter but his candidacy has been source of controversy on campus because the Charleston Republican does not have the academic background that many professors prefer.

McConnell, an attorney, is a College of Charleston graduate and a dorm at the college is named after him. McConnell chose not to seek election as lieutenant governor this year in order to concentrate on trying to become the college’s next president. McConnell became lieutenant governor in 2012 after Ken Ard resigned. McConnell was head of the state Senate, president, pro tempore, at the time.

If appointed the College of Charleston’s president, McConnell is seen, by supporters, as having the political clout to turn the college into the state’s third large research university. Lawmakers have introduced a bill to merge the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina to create Charleston University.

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