If there’s an American city that could use a break from identification with its role in the Civil War, it’s probably Charleston, SC. It has a lot going for it—notably world-class cuisine, distinctive architecture and a vibrant arts scene—without preoccupation with Fort Sumter or its citizens’ and its state’s more general role in beginning the secession landslide. The Civil War history is obviously there, for those interested in it. But why bring coals to Newcastle by drawing attention to it?
Unfortunately, that’s what is happening with the appointment of SC Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell as president of the College of Charleston.
Until recently McConnell was a long-time state legislator who was vaulted into his statewide gig in 2012 when elected Lite Governor Ken Ard resigned under a cloud from ethics charges. He is by all accounts a Good Old Boy, but isn’t exactly a distinguished scholar (unlike many of the 100 applicants passed over for him), and his one “scholarly” interest seems to be the Lost Cause. He was among the leaders in resisting removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the State Capital when that was a red-hot issue, and likes to dress up in Confederate regalia now and then.
Needless to say, McConnell’s appointment has gotten mixed reviews from the college and the community.
The head of the SC NAACP, had an especially tart comment, per TPM’s Eric Lach:
Dr. Lonnie Randolph Jr., president of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, criticized the way McConnell landed a “plush job without having the credentials.” Randolph pointed out that the college’s board of trustees are elected by the state’s General Assembly, where McConnell served for decades.
“The process is best described as the good ol’ boy system at [its] best in South Carolina again,” Randolph told TPM in an interview this week. “It’s just unfair to any good-thinking person that the best candidate was chosen for the job.”
Randolph said McConnell’s “image is not reflective of America.”
“If they wanted to be called the College of the Confederacy rather than the College of Charleston, he would be a perfect fit,” Randolph said.
One African-American legislator who’s not attacking the appointment does allow as how McConnell needs to give the Confederate stuff a permanent rest:
State Rep. Robert Brown, a Hollywood Democrat who also is black, said he has known McConnell for about 13 years….
He’s not pushing for McConnell to be hired, and he also is not opposed to it, he said. But, “I would ask Glenn, if he were hired, to back off from some Confederate activities to take that off the table.”
You could say the same about Charleston, South Carolina and indeed the entire region. Enough already with the Confederacy. It was a short, violent, unsuccessful venture in a bad cause that had disastrous results the South is still struggling to overcome. Confine it to the museums and history books. And if Glenn McConnell can’t let it go, then he has no business being the president of a taxpayer-supported university in the 21st century.
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