The College of Charleston Student Senate passed Bill SB-49-2014 on Tuesday, March 25th with by 17 yeas, 5 nays and 4 abstentions. Students expressed concerns regarding the legitimacy of the presidential search process, the Board’s thoughts on academic freedom and the potential MUSC/CofC merger. Throughout the meeting, the students’ clearest concern was the presence of blatant disregard to popular student opinion by the Board throughout discussion of these important issues.
A recent petition circulated throughout the student body opposing the election of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell received over 2,000 signatures. Conversely, a petition supporting McConnell earned only about 200 signatures. What’s more, 83 percent of the faculty have indicated they do not find McConnell an acceptable candidate for the job.
During the discussion period, one student asked Board of Trustees Chairman Gregory Padgett if formal student feedback surveys, posted after each candidate came to campus, were considered during the Board’s selection meeting. Padgett gave a resounding “yes.” However, when asked which candidate student feedback surveys favored, he responded saying, “Encarnation and Saunders,” the other two presidential finalists.
Although much of the session focused on the presidential search process and its seeming lack of transparency, the other major issue regarding the Board of Trustees is their handling of the College Reads! controversy. Last week, the Board made statements in support of academic freedom at the College of Charleston. However, in a joint session between the Board and the S.C. House of Representatives, released March 13, 2014, several members made contrasting and potentially homophobic statements. For example, Board member Joseph F. Thompson stated the following:
“The book was a mistake. Shouldn’t have happened. We should have been involved in it. We were not. It’s my personal feeling. The buck stops with us. We took our eye off the ball and trusted that task to someone who let us down. Someone who should have used good common sense.”
Board Member Daniel Ravenel reiterated concerns based on the subject matter of the book:
“Well, first of all, I think the program ought to be eliminated…This book is not a book. It’s a comic book…I was horrified. Why would we give students a comic book to read? They’ve had plenty of experience with that. Despite the distastefulness of it. But, I mean, it just — to me, it was not an intellectual exercise at all. So I think the program is flawed, and I’m going to make a motion at the next meeting to do away with the program.”
Despite the opinions of the Board, students at CofC have made it clear that they support campus diversity and the challenging cultural opinions in the program. This support was evidenced by gasps and cries of shock from the gallery while the above statements, among others, were presented at Tuesday’s meeting. One senator even motioned to amend the bill by adding a clause in support of the College’s LGBT community. This amendment was addressed by Student Body President Jordan Hensley who announced SGA’s plans to propose a formal resolution next week in support of the campus’ LGBT community.
After many time extensions and much deliberation, student senate adjourned just after its scheduled time with the passage of the furthest legislative action that SGA can take against another institutional body. The passing vote of “No Confidence” was met by applause and cheers from the audience.
Read the bill in its entirety here.