EKU president named as finalist for College of Charleston’s top spot

Michael T. Benson
Michael T. Benson EKU

Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson is one of three finalists for the top job of the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., that school’s Board of Trustees announced Thursday.

Benson has been president of EKU since 2013, where he came after serving as president of Southern Utah University. He has overseen a huge expansion of academic and residential buildings on campus and presided over some of the largest budget and programmatic cuts in that school’s history.

The other finalists are Andrew Hsu, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Toledo, Rhonda Phillips, a tenured professor and dean of the Honors College at Purdue University in Indiana; they are expected to visit campus next week.

With 11,000 students, the College of Charleston is much smaller and more urban than Eastern Kentucky University’s 17,000-student campus.

It also had a tumultuous history with its most recent president, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. According to the newspaper, the Board of Trustees ignored the 15 candidate slate for president proposed in 2014 and instead installed Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell.

“Students walked out of class in solidarity with the NAACP, the Faculty Senate took a vote of no confidence in the board, and protesters picketed in the Cistern Yard,” the newspaper recounted. “They cried foul at the apparent short-circuiting of the selection process, as well as McConnell’s long history of defending Confederate monuments and running a Confederate memorabilia shop.”

McConnell was hired nonetheless and served until his retirement in January 2018, the newspaper said.