Students at the University of South Carolina reacted in anger Friday due to the former superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point being named a finalist for president of the school.
The main concern of the approximately 75 demonstrators is Robert Caslen’s comments about rape culture and sexual assault; he has stated that curbing binge drinking can help combat such attacks.
According to the Greenville News, Caslen’s said at a presidential forum “We went after this … not only sexual assaults, but we want to take up the contributing measures toward sexual assault, particularly alcohol. We had to spend a lot of time, a lot of energy, toward educating students about the consequences of alcohol, binge drinking, things like that.”
Of course, suggesting something like this, particularly at a college campus, is bound to invite the wrath of the usual suspects.
Student protester Lyric Swinton said in response to Caslen’s remarks “There is nothing that can make somebody commit sexual assault except for the person who commits sexual assault.”
Caslen’s role in the Iraq War and his support for the US-backed Contras against the (communist) Sandinista government in 1980s Nicaragua also irk demonstrators: “His entire career has been contrary to the values of this institution,” one student said.
Protesters claimed that more than 400 students had signed a letter in support of William F. Tate for president. During the protest, Darius York read that letter aloud, which also criticized Caslen for his comments on sexual assault.
“We felt that this comment was insensitive and may reflect his moral stances on other controversial topics,” according to the letter.
Tensions on campus had been increasing since the presidential finalists were announced and included no women and only one nonwhite person. Those tensions had resulted in a letter signed by more than 40 student organizations and 120 faculty members that call on the university to include more diversity finalists for the president of the university.
The Daily Gamecock reports a letter written by junior Lauryn Workman to the student government president (to read at the Board of Trustees meeting) requests the following:
–First and foremost, that you do not elect Caslen to be the next president of our University. His record deeply troubles the student body, faculty and staff, and many members of the Carolina community.
–That the demographics of the 80 applicants be publicly released and there is more transparency about the process that led to the selection of the candidates, semifinalists, and finalists.