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University History

Commission Charge

In his first official action as president, President Caslen established the Presidential Commission on University History and charged the commission with a series of tasks to explore and address the historic context of the university.

Official Charge

August 20, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I write today to update your charge of work for the Presidential Commission on University History.

As you are aware, I originally charged the commission on Friday, October 18, 2019 with the specific objective of leading a research effort that will help us to better educate students, faculty, staff, visitors, and local community members about the complex history of the university. I also asked the commission to identify and include the contributions of marginalized and underrepresented people and/or groups whose voices have typically not been heard.

Outcomes in that initial charge were to include:

  • A historical report to the president (also to be made available to the public); and,
  • A list of recommendations to address new understandings that arise from the commission’s research.

The commission is tasked with conducting a comprehensive and constructive review of our campus history to include the naming of our campus buildings. From the previous charge, it is the university’s intent through this commission to study and better understand the histories of the people whose names adorn our buildings.

From the very beginning of this commission and effort, my goal has been to encourage and foster open, candid dialogue so that all views are expressed and considered. I believe it is so important to have open, inclusive, and respectful discussion; which leads to a level of understanding; which leads to a degree of empathy and ideally, results in some ‘common ground’ from which we can move forward together.

Per recent direction from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, you should bring forward to the Board of Trustees a set of names of prominent African-American South Carolinians who could be considered for honorific naming of university buildings in the near future. This list should include Richard Greener, Ernest Finney, Robert Anderson, James Solomon and Henrie Monteith Treadwell, among others.

Your deliberations and analysis of buildings on campus should reflect a consistent set of standards, a careful and deliberate balancing process, and an acknowledgment of the complex intersection between the lessons of our past and present. You should deliberate the merits and faults of the individuals honored in light of the present-day norms of our university.

Please know that at this crucial moment, your work is more important now than ever before. Your updated charge is:

Provide a written report to me that contains the following information:

  • Description of meetings held, including dates and attendance
  • A summary of the commission’s work
  • Names of buildings reviewed and for each building reviewed provide:
    • Summary of why the building was reviewed
    • Historical summary of the individual for whom the building is named
    • An argument for retaining present naming
    • An argument against retaining present naming
    • Final commission recommendation on naming based on the preponderance of merit
  • Further, provide a separate final naming report to include:
    • Ranked list of naming suggestions, which should include consideration of prominent African-American South Carolinians
    • Historical biography for each individual
    • Argument for the individual recommendation
    • Argument against the individual recommendation
    • Commission’s final recommendation based on the preponderance of merit

In order to accomplish the updated charge, you should use appropriate due diligence, including:

  • Public meetings to solicit input from students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders
  • Written comments from stakeholders
  • Historical research and analysis to support your conclusions

Your report should also explore options for interactive applications, programming, exhibits, or academic courses to communicate a complete and full history for all new UofSC community members.

You may conduct these actions concurrently and provide key recommendations as they are developed and a consolidated report when complete.

Ultimately, your final report will provide a valuable retrospective of the history, values and ideals of the University of South Carolina. We should recognize that the history of our university and the process of naming buildings is imperfect. I ask that you work deliberately to make your report as complete and accurate as possible; and in a manner that ensures open, candid dialogue so that all views are expressed and considered.

Thank you for your time and commitment in this matter. I look forward to receiving your report.

Respectfully,
Bob Caslen


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