South Carolina

Amid criticism, USC refuses to say whether all presidential semifinalists were men

The University of South Carolina is refusing to say whether it considered any female semifinalists in its search for a new president.

At every public presidential forum this week, a group of USC students have read aloud a letter calling for female candidates to be included in the presidential search. Among their top assertions: that all 11 of the semifinalists considered for the presidency were men.

“The President is the face of our institution and represents USC to the outside world. He or she symbolizes the University itself, embodying the values of our Creed,” the letter said. “And yet we were given a search committee that looked nothing like the body it was supposed to represent, and they gave us a finalist pool that is not representative of the students they are trying to lead.”

USC was criticized last week after it revealed that all four finalists for the job were men and that three of the finalists were white. The 11-member search committee included nine men and two women, according to the university’s presidential search page.

USC’s student population is 53 percent female, according to the office of undergraduate admissions.

Rigabar said information about the semi-finalists came a meeting with students and the board of trustees secretary Cantey Heath. When The State asked USC if all 11 semifinalists were men, the school refused to say.

The State has reached out to Heath.

“I cannot confirm the gender makeup of the semifinalist group,” spokesman Wes Hickman said in a text message. “As I’ve stated previously, to protect the integrity and confidential nature of the search process, we are releasing information only on the four finalists.”

Though women occupy a majority on many college campuses, they’re less likely to serve as president than their male counterparts. Only 30 percent of college presidents were women in 2016, according to a 2017 report from the American Council on Education.

The State reached out to all 11 members of the presidential search commission Thursday morning. Only two responded. USC Student Body President Taylor Wright, who is on the search committee, said, “I’m not going to comment on the search right now.”

Araceli Hernández-Laroche, who represents faculty at USC’s branch campuses on the search committee, also replied saying she would not comment.

Support for the letter has grown substantially since it was first read. When the letter was first read aloud publicly on Monday, 28 student organizations and 46 faculty had signed it, according to a previous article from The State. As of Thursday, 43 organizations and 123 faculty members have signed the letter.

USC has held forums each day this week for the finalists to meet faculty, students and the public. The final forum, with John Applegate of Indiana University, is being held Thursday. The USC board is set to meet Friday and could pick a president then.

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