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USC trustee says anti-Caslen protesters didn't change his mind in presidential search

Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, on the sidelines during the 2015 Army-Navy football game.

RICK VASQUEZ/STARS AND STRIPES

By LUCAS DAPRILE | The State (Columbia, S.C.) | Published: May 2, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Tribune News Service) — A University of South Carolina Board of Trustees member said Friday’s student protests did not influence his decision in the search for the school’s new president.

Rather, the board punted on the decision to appoint a new president because the members were unable to form a consensus around a single candidate, said Eddie Floyd, who has served on the school’s board of trustees since 1982 but is not on the presidential search committee.

“I don’t mean to say I didn’t listen to the students, but no, the protest didn’t bother me,” Floyd said. “I care about the students, I still have a grandson up there.”

Students and faculty protested the trustees for naming only male finalists in the presidential search. Some students also protested the candidacy of Robert Caslen, the former superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point for his sustainability record, his role in the war in Iraq and the fact that he does not possess a doctorate degree. Some students protested comments Caslen made about sexual assault and alcohol, however, those comments may have been taken out of context.

Rather than naming a permanent president, the board named Brendan Kelly, the chancellor of USC Upstate as interim president beginning on Aug. 1.

Asked if the protesters influenced any of the other board members, Floyd said, “I hope not.”

Floyd also said the university may still consider finalists Robert Caslen, William Tate, John Applegate and Joseph “Jay” Walsh as presidential candidates.

“I don’t think this totally rules out anybody,” Floyd told The State. “That’s left up to the search committee and who they bring back to the board.”

The State reached out to all of USC’s board of trustees and only Floyd responded with a comment.

Trustee A.C. “Bubba” Fennell responded to an email from The State saying to contact Board of Trustees Chair John Von Lehe or search committee chair Hugh Mobley. Neither Mobley nor Von Lehe returned calls seeking comment.

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