- Associated Press - Monday, October 7, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A committee created Monday will review the controversial hiring of new University of South Carolina President Robert Caslen.

The State reports that South Carolina Senate President Harvey Peeler created a special committee to conduct the review at the request of state Sen. Darrell Jackson. Jackson, a Richland Democrat, has been critical of Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s involvement in Caslen’s hiring.

Jackson told the newspaper that he wants to interview USC trustees and some governor’s office staffers to publicly reveal the extent of McMaster’s influence.

“It appeared to those of us looking from the outside to be very chaotic, not organized and - some folks may think - heavy handed with political influence,” Jackson said of the presidential search process. “It looked embarrassing to the university and embarrassing to the state of South Carolina.”

USC’s board voted 11-8 to hire Caslen in July despite protests from faculty, some students and politicians.



A Caslen supporter will serve as the panel’s chairman.

State Sen. Greg Gregory, a Lancaster Republican and former USC board member who publicly supported Caslen’s hiring, will serve as the committee chairman, the newspaper reported.

Another Republican on the panel, state Sen. Katrina Shealy of Lexington, told The State she isn’t sure why the committee is necessary.

“I think it’s a done deal and we should just move forward,” Shealy said. “We’re just stirring up ground here. I don’t think we’re going to go back and undo anything that’s been done.”

The newspaper reports that Peeler thinks USC’s board made the right decision to hire Caslen, but has concerns about the process that led to the selection.

“(This is) absolutely not a witch hunt committee,” Peeler told the newspaper. “It’s a fact-finding committee.”

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