By Feb. 10 the panel will narrow the list down to five candidates.
“We’re certainly excited by the exceptional quality and size of our candidate pool,” says panel member Greg Padgett, chair of the CofC Board of Trustees. “Our applicants are current university presidents. They’re deans. They’re leaders from the public and private sectors with applications coming from Charleston, from the Southeast, and throughout the United States.”
So far, Padgett says the panel isn’t releasing any names, but Republican Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell has said he wants the job. Practically ever since current CofC President George Benson announced he was retiring, McConnell’s name has dominated the discussion of potential candidates. And he has his share of local support, among both his fellow Republicans and Democrats. State Rep. Leon Stavrinakas, a West Ashley Democrat, has even indicated he believes the college is wasting its time and money by going through a traditional search process when McConnell, an avid Civil War buff, has offered himself as a choice.
But such talk has irked members of the CofC Faculty Senate. In September its members signed a unanimous resolution urging school officials to conduct a national search and hire a president with an academic background. Not surprisingly, some faculty members have grumbled about the possibility of a Confederate reenactor being their president.
Members of the Faculty Senate have also indicated that they worry local politics might influence the hiring process. At a Jan. 14 meeting of the Faculty Senate, Padgett addressed that very subject.
“He simply reassured the faculty that, yes, there is a process, and the committee is committed to that process … [and that] despite anything that has been perhaps said in various news venues, no decision has been made yet,” says Speaker of the Faculty Lynn Cherry.
While it’s uncertain how fierce the behind-the-scenes lobbying will be, former CofC senior vice president Daniel Dukes, who worked for five previous CofC presidents and now does lobbying work for Francis Marion University, has contacted board members to express his support of McConnell.
“I have a lot of personal friends on the board that I have just shared my enthusiasm for the candidacy of Mr. McConnell,” Dukes says. “They have been firm on just saying that they have to see who the finalists are, which is fine. I’ve called a few of them, and I’ve only called people who don’t know Glenn personally.”
Faculty members, meanwhile, have been asked to take an anonymous survey gauging their support for a possible merger between CofC and MUSC, among other things. The results should be circulated among faculty soon.
On Friday, a College of Charleston panel of more than a dozen trustees, alumni, students, faculty, and staff met with a consultant from a national search firm to review more than 100 resumes of those who applied for the soon-to-be-vacated post of college president.