The College of Charleston board of trustees on Friday narrowed its list of candidates to five as they seek a replacement for outgoing school president George Benson. But board members are not giving any clue at this point who their finalists are.
Chairman Greg Padgett said the board wants to contact the five finalists before making the names public.
The search is getting statewide attention after current Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell expressed interest in the position. McConnell even announced earlier this year that he will not seek reelection to the lieutenant governor’s office so he could potentially take the job at his alma mater. The former senator still enjoys plenty of support in the state legislature, which appoints College of Charleston’s board of directors. Many members of the legislature, especially those from the Charleston region, are making it clear they want McConnell at the helm.
But a search committee returned five finalists earlier this month — and McConnell’s name was not among them. That has created more public pressure from the Charleston legislators, especially as the board of trustees is not obligated to choose a candidate from among those finalists. Meanwhile, the school’s foundation board is urging the trustees to stick with those five names, the Charleston Post & Courier reports.
Board members themselves have signed a non-disclosure agreement, meaning they cannot comment on the search. Benson says he will eventually be included in the selection process, but is not for the moment.
“I don’t know,” he said Friday, when asked if McConnell still had a shot at the job. “I wish I knew that and could answer that question, but I honestly don’t know. That’s kind of the question on everybody’s lips these days.”
Benson steps down after the current semester to return to the classroom. He would not say specifically if the candidates are being selected with an eye toward a possible merger of the College of Charleston and Medical University of South Carolina. Benson says he knows the board is looking for what he called a “transformative leader”.
“The board itself has basically endorsed the strategic plan that we have now, which is moving us towards becoming what you might call an ’emerging research university,'” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “I’m pretty confident they’re looking for someone to follow the path.”
School trustees are bound by their confidentiality agreement, according to Padgett. He earlier urged the public not to be swayed by “speculation.”
“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,” he said in a February 14 statement.
State law requires a list of at least three finalists before a president can be selected. There is no timeline currently in place for when the board will make one public.
Sheree Bernardi of Charleston affiliate WTMA contributed to this report