Glenn McConnell has begun his presidency at College of Charleston despite a very vocal outcry from faculty and students alike. The NAACP protested McConnell because of his hobby of participating in Civil War reenactments, and students, as well as faculty, protested multiple times after the Board of Trustees voted unanimously for McConnell to be the next president at the College.
I participated in a majority of the protests not specifically because of a dislike of McConnell himself, although I don't think he is a good fit for CofC, but because of the outright disrespect and political corruption shown by the college's Board of Trustees. As you may know, the Board of Trustees, which are appointed by the state General Assembly, chose their long-time colleague McConnell, the former president of the S.C. Senate, despite the fact that a yearlong search process for the next president did not recommend him.
Although McConnell's name was crossed off a list of potential candidates, somehow he was snuck back on it. Make no mistake, McConnell got the job because of back-door politics and his prior influence as the most powerful politician in the state. This bit of good ol' boy politics gave college students a truly important lesson: Getting a job isn't about having the right qualifications or experience — as McConnell has zero experience in academia — instead it's all about who you know.
But McConnell has the job now whether we like it or not. He even sent an email expressing his excitement. "I deeply appreciate the warm welcome and many good wishes that I have received from members of the college community. I was touched by all of these messages, and I thank you for your support," McConnell wrote. I'm not sure what warm welcome McConnell is speaking of, but I'm sure the good wishes came from his buddies at the Board of Trustees.
When I asked multiple friends with various viewpoints how they felt about McConnell, as well as his email, the reactions ranged from indifference to outrage. No one was exactly ecstatic about his presidency. "I think that he did a good job sneaking in half way through the summer. He sent a nice meaningless email, which I think we can expect a lot more of throughout his presidency," rising junior Olivia Cohen says.
The thing is, McConnell did not deserve to become president of CofC, and in order to earn the respect of the community he has a lot of work to do. That means hanging up his musket and folding away the Confederate flag in order to ensure that minorities feel welcome. While McConnell does plan to use guidance counselors at high schools to reach out to minorities, the College of Charleston needs to be a place where minorities can feel like their stories and experiences are wanted, and that they're not just there as a means to meet a diversity quota.
McConnell also needs to remember that he's here for CofC and that he needs to protect it from the legislature if they try to bully us again with budget cuts for supposedly promoting an agenda outside of their ultra-conservative beliefs, as was the case last year when they picked a fight with CofC over Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, and the book's LGBTQ subject matter. Much like minorities, members of the LGBTQ community need to feel safe on campus, and that means that we need a president who will stand up to the homophobes and bigots in the legislature.
We need a president who isn't afraid to break political ties and stand up for what's right. In order for McConnell to be a leader at the College, he needs to inspire others to follow his leadership. Right now that's going to take a lot of work.