South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell (R) has been selected as the new president of the College of Charleston despite a history of both reenacting and defending the Confederate historical era and its flag, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported on Thursday.
McConnell was selected to head up the college last week, despite vocal opposition from not only school faculty and student groups, but the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP). He is scheduled to take office on July 1.
“It’s the 21st century, but McConnell is still fighting the Civil War (or the “War Between the States,” as he calls it),” the SPLC wrote. “And so too, it seems, is the College of Charleston’s Board of Trustees.”
The SPLC reported that McConnell’s advocacy for Confederate symbolism dates back at least to 1996, when he called Gov. David Beasley’s (R) proposal to remove the Rebel flag from the capitol dome “cultural genocide.” He subsequently compared Beasley to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for trying to negotiate with the NAACP, referring to the civl rights group as “militants.”
Four years later, following an NAACP-led boycott and protest march calling for the flag to be removed, McConnell accused the NAACP of “trying to make the flag a scapegoat for something that existed in history.”
McConnell is also a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a “neo-Confederate” group which claims on its website that “the citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution.” Four years ago, he was criticized after a photograph surfaced of him taking part in a Civil War re-enactment event organized by the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women. He has never worked in higher education.
Inside Higher Ed reported that the college’s board of trustees ignored the advice of their search committee not to give the job to McConnell. His selection resulted in a campus protest attended by more than 400 people. The school’s student government has also taken a vote of no confidence against the trustees.
McConnell said he looked forward to “having a dialogue” with his critics in an interview with Charleston City Paper published on Wednesday, describing the public dispute over the placement of the Confederate flag as “a very acrimonious time”
“The mainstream on both sides wanted to settle it,” he was quoted as saying. “We took four flags down: the one on the dome, the one over each podium, the one in the hall, and then we put a soldier’s flag and a soldier’s monument. Those of us on both sides of that question, we got harshly criticized for that compromise, but the mainstream of South Carolina was happy with it. And I’m not going to go back and open old wounds and animosities over this. We settled it, we moved forward, and we thought we did so in a great thing.”
However, according to the SPLC, McConnell said at the time of the compromise that “We did what General Lee should have done at Gettysburg. We flanked on them. We moved the flag from the dome to the soldier’s monument and put the NAACP in a position they cannot sell, which is to remove it totally from the grounds.”
[Image via Glenn McConnell YouTube channel]