The Next President of the College of Charleston?

McConnell, Confederate reenactor

Photo taken at the 2010 meeting of the National Federation of Republican Women in Charleston, SC.

Update: Interesting story on the pressure that is being exerted by McConnell’s allies on College of Charleston.

The College of Charleston is looking for a new president and a number of state legislators are pushing the school to consider Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell. The question raised in this article is whether his involvement with Confederate heritage groups and support of the Confederate flag reflects the school’s values and commitment to diversity. McConnell has to apply for the position by Jan. 14, but if he does the outcome of his candidacy will tell us a great deal about the state of Confederate heritage in South Carolina politics and culture.

Let’s review his Confederate past.

  • Member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans
  • Former owner of store that sold Confederate tchotchke
  • Attended 2010 Secession Ball in Charleston
  • Supports flying of Confederate flag on Statehouse grounds
  • Claimed in the 1990s that the removal of Confederate symbols could lead to “cultural genocide”

On the other hand, this past summer McConnell delivered the keynote address on Sullivan’s Island to mark the 150th anniversary of the assault at Battery Wagner led by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

“The story of both the Confederates and the federals who fought that day is the story of the American people in their travel through time,” said South Carolina Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell, himself a Civil War re-enactor, in his keynote address. “Our march through history … is the story of a people who, in the pursuit or defense of freedom, as they perceived or understood it, were always willing to put aside the element of fear and answer the call of duty.”

No word on whether McConnell addressed the ways in which this “pursuit or defense of freedom” conflicted.

McConnell is a graduate of the school and I have no reason to believe that his Confederate past would necessarily prevent him from doing what is best for the college. Again, the main issue at this point seems to be the school’s commitment to diversity.

So, in 2014 the question will be: Can you serve as the president of a college in the birthplace of secession if you openly commemorate and even celebrate the Confederate past? It’s going to be very interesting to see how this unfolds.

CraterThanks for reading this post. Scroll down, leave a comment and join the conversation if you are so inclined. Follow me on Twitter and join the Civil War Memory Facebook group for continuous updates and additional links to newsworthy items from around the interwebs. Stay up to date by subscribing to this blog’s feed. You can also check out my recently published book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.

9 comments… add one

  • Scott A. MacKenzie Dec 23, 2013

    In South Carolina, he’s probably underqualified.

  • Michael Rodgers Dec 23, 2013

    For those interested in McConnell and South Carolina, I recommend the book Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!: South Carolina and the Confederate Flag by K. Michael Prince, the documentary Confederacy Theory, and the comedy clip Civil Whites by Stephen Colbert of the Daily Show.

  • Brooks D. Simpson Dec 23, 2013

    Well, the College’s website says that it’s “A superior public university with personality to spare.”

    You ask: “Can you serve as the president of a college in the birthplace of secession if you openly commemorate and even celebrate the Confederate past?”

    My answer is yes, you can. Will the College of Charleston make a choice with that consideration in mind? That’s not for me to answer.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 23, 2013

      It looks like some of the stakeholders at the school are already voicing their concerns in the event that McConnell becomes a candidate.

      If it’s a non-issue than we can assume that McConnell can continue to dress up and take part in these events. If he suddenly resists than runs the risk of alienating the heritage crowd.

      • Brooks D. Simpson Dec 23, 2013

        He won’t be the first person to take a lower profile concerning Confederate heritage activities when employment (present or future) is at stake.

        • Kevin Levin Dec 23, 2013

          True, but the difference is that McConnell’s heritage activities apparently didn’t hurt while he was serving in state government.

  • Doug didier Dec 24, 2013

    Some inputs.. I suppose

    Couple of years ago attended viewing of the hunley movie at a friends of the old exchange meeting in charleston . McConnell sat next to me and after the movie gave a short talk.. Quite an impressive guy..

    College of charleston is, in my opinion, quite a progressive place. Just feel it when visiting. Last year at the annual meeting of the South Carolina historical society, the president was pretty excited. Couldn’t wait to announce that the college had offered to house all of our documents.. No strings attached.. Would have seperate facility within their facility. Now the fireproof building can be freed up for a new role.. Last fall the Avery research center hosted one of the days of the lowcountry rice symposium . A johnathon Greene project . Five minute video..http://www.lowcountryriceculture.org/index.html

  • Betty Giragosian Dec 27, 2013

    Kevin, ask your commenters to read ‘The Old Virginia Blog” for a good answer. I have met Senator mcConnell, the man who led the raising of the Hunley. I like him. It seems a pity that he should be judged or rather misjudged because he participates in events concerning his heritage.

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