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Conservative politics strike a liberal arts college

Lt. Governor McConnell's appointment to president of College of Charleston is causing a stir at the school.
Lt. Governor McConnell's appointment to president of College of Charleston is causing a stir at the school.
(L) - State of South Carolina, (R) - College of Charleson

Glenn McConnell was once popular at the College of Charleston, where he was elected Student Body President in 1969. But 45 years later he’s anything but popular – and with good reasons, say today’s students, faculty and staff of his alma mater.

Not only does South Carolina’s Lt. Governor have no experience in the field of education, but McConnell also has a long record of racially-inclined actions and associations.

But on March 22 he was appointed president of the college by its Board of Trustees, and even though he wasn’t even declared a finalist by the school’s search committee.

Students, faculty and staff had protested a week earlier after learning of McConnell’s possible appointment, and demonstrations reached a new spirited height after the March 22 announcement, hoping to steer McConnell away from their school.

Bearing signs that read “no confederate president at C of C,” approximately 300 students hit campus streets for a March 24 demonstration, some claiming that they’ll transfer to another school.

On March 25, the Student Government Association passed a “no confidence” bill, requesting a new selection for college president, and also that the Board of Trustees refund the six-figure cost paid to the search committee that didn’t recommend McConnell.

McConnell was first elected to State Senate in 1980. He quickly became known nationally for contesting a move of the Confederate flag from atop the State House to a memorial in front of the building, and continues today in argument against its complete removal. He’s hosted “Secession Gala” events on anniversaries of the state’s one-time move to confederacy, once operated a Dixie memorabilia store, and secured millions from the state to operate a Confederate submarine museum. McConnell is also an active member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which the Southern Poverty Law Center dubs a hate group for being “dominated by racial extremists(.)”

In interview with The State, McConnell said he’d make changes to the school that will make it more attractive to donors.

Circulating rumors claim that a hired lobbyist threatened College of Charleston’s Board of Trustees with decreased funding unless they select McConnell.

Rallies continue daily from the campus’ Cistern quad, but the Board continues to defend its selection.

Demonstrations on other political topics are scheduled for the campus, as well. The college recently lost $59,000 in funding in homophobic response to its inclusion of “Fun Home,” Alison Bechdel’s memoir of a lesbian raised by a gay father, in the summer reading program for incoming freshmen students.

Southerners On New Ground (SONG) will host a protest and press conference from the College of Charleston’s Cistern Yard (66 George St.) at 11 a.m. on Sat., March 29.

Last month, SONG organized a still-ongoing demonstration to the budget cut through a website carrying photos of citizens bearing signs with protesting messages.

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