A day after Robert Caslen resigned as president of the University of South Carolina, reaction to the sudden change at the top of the Palmetto State’s flagship university continued to pour in.
Most of the comments posted on social media were critical of Caslen. But he was not the only object of scorn.
USC’s Board of Trustees, the faculty, and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster were all singled out for criticism in the fallout.
Over the weekend, a video of Caslen went viral after he mistakenly congratulated the 2021 graduates of the “University of California” before correcting himself. It was later reported that a portion of Caslen’s commencement speech was pulled from another commencement speech by retired Navy Admiral William McRaven. Caslen, a retired U.S. Army officer, did not attribute the quote to McRaven.
“I am sorry to those I have let down. I understand the responsibilities and higher standards of senior level leadership. When those are not met, trust is lost. And when trust is lost, one is unable to lead,” Caslen wrote in an email explaining his decision.
The move was the result two years in the making, as many were outraged when Caslen was named USC’s president, according to the Twitter user Rename the Strom Thurmond Gym.
“Caslen resigning is the result of 2 years of activism, mostly by students. They deserve our (thanks),” the 20-tweet thread said. “Alumni (especially Darla Moore) also played an important role. Faculty played basically NO role in anything this past week. Really embarrassing.”
Another post on Twitter took a shot at Caslen’s mistaken identification of USC last weekend.
“Bob Caslen has resigned from the University of California,” Seagull tweeted.
But a poster named J tweeted, “mispronouncing the name of the school is not why Caslen resigned if anything its the straw that broke the camel back.”
USC alum Danielle Barilla took a more serious approach with her comments.
“The events of this past weekend, which were infuriating, just reminded people of feelings they had two years ago. The university failed its students and faculty in the way they went about hiring Caslen.”
Caslen’s hiring was a controversial and contentious process, and many blamed McMaster for forcing his choice through. That resentment still exists and it was easy to find online.
“Let’s not forget: The only reason Caslen got the presidency is because his good ole buddy Henry McMaster pulled some strings. The Board didn’t like him. Darla Moore didn’t like him. But, most importantly, the faculty and students didn’t like him,” The Real USC tweeted.
The person with the Twitter handle Fire Ray Tanner echoed that sentiment, with some kind words for Caslen on the way out of USC.
“Sincerely hope Caslen finds somewhere where he’s a good fit. He seems likable on a personal level. Unfortunately everything McMaster touches is garbage so Caslen was set up to fail. Let’s do this right this time, without the nepotism.”
Thoughts about the process of finding Caslen’s successor were also an opportunity to take shots at McMaster and the Board of Trustees.
“Wondering when the USC Board will admit it made a mistake hiring Caslen?” ML Ramsdale tweeted. “Probably when it admits it broke the law. Do not hold your breath. Board members who voted for Caslen should pay personally for the cost of another search. And remember the board leader is Henry McMaster.”
Another tweet put all of the blame on the governor’s shoulders.
“It’s not even about Caslen to be honest,” Forrest L. Alton tweeted. “Leaders put people in positions where they can excel. But Governor McMaster did the opposite, setting Caslen up for failure from day one. Now here we are. Cleaning up a big mess. It’s that simple. And that sad.”
Another poster took a different view that working at USC is more grueling than expected.
“The (U.S.) military and a terrorist attack couldn’t break (Caslen) but 2 years at the (University of South Carolina) could,” Carly tweeted.
McMaster had a differing view on the situation, saying as much to the media diuring a news conference Thursday.
“I think that Gen. Caslen, President Caslen did a splendid job in the two years that he was here,” McMaster said. “He expanded the influence of the university in a number of areas.”
His potential opponent in the 2022 election offered more advice than criticism.
“This is the right decision and I commend Pres. Caslen for doing what’s best for USC,” said former U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, a Democrat from South Carolina’s Lowcountry. “Now the the Board should conduct a national search for the next President that includes a diverse and qualified applicant pool. And this time, students, faculty and alumni should have a say.”
USC’s Board didn’t find the most qualified candidate when it hired Caslen, according to a tweet from Rooster Circles.
“Was Bob Caslen qualified for the job? No. But did he step up to the plate, lead, and ultimately do a better job than any of us expected? Also no.”
Prior to his resignation, USC women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley voiced her support Caslen.
“I just want to say to Bob Caslen thank you for your commitment to USC ….it is when we are in the midst of our hardest day true leadership rise. Win the war Prez!”
One person who looked at what the future could hold did so with a sense of humor in an allusion to former Gamecocks football coach Will Muschamp, who was fired after last season and is getting a $12.9 million buyout from USC. After being fired Muschamp joined the Georgia Bulldogs this spring as a senior defensive analyst.
“So does Caslen end up as an analyst for Georgia?”