According to a recent survey, the majority of College of Charleston faculty say they do not support a merger with the Medical University of South Carolina or favor plans to turn the school into a research university, and they overwhelmingly agree that the college’s next president should have a background in higher education.

When asked if it’s important for a new president to have extensive knowledge of and experience with the challenges facing higher education, 93 percent of faculty respondents said yes. Meanwhile, 79 percent said a president should have a “distinguished record of service” in higher ed.

More than 400 faculty members responded to the survey, conducted by the Faculty Senate, giving it a notable response rate of about 80 percent. In addition, respondents also submitted more than 250 personal comments. While those comments haven’t been made public, they “reveal concerns about transparency and inclusiveness in the presidential search process,” the survey’s executive summary notes. “Many faculty view senior administration and the Board of Trustees as too focused on politics and outside voices and not in touch with faculty achievements and aspirations.”

More from the summary:

Any proposal to change our long-standing mission and priorities will require leadership that is more willing to engage in transparent and sober dialogue about realistic risks and costs in addition to opportunities. Some faculty are open to leaders from outside of academia but all strongly oppose any choice that would not appear to be the best-qualified candidate.

They envision someone with the experience necessary to understand current challenges to higher education, to secure the resources necessary to address long-standing issues before committing to new directions, to recognize and build on our strengths, and to show commitment to inclusion and diversity.

The comments affirm that without sufficient “buy-in” from current faculty, “rolling the dice this way would be a disaster.” “Dysfunction” seems to capture the current mood of faculty in feeling alienated from the goals of shared governance, from a common and well-defined mission, and from the process of selecting a future leader.

A bipartisan group of local legislators, including House Speaker Bobby Harrell, has been in talks with CofC and MUSC about how to merge, despite objections from the MUSC board. Legislation is expected this year. Meanwhile, current CofC President George Benson has said he hopes whoever takes his place will follow his long-term strategic plan for the school and guide it toward becoming an economic development-focused research university and toward a merger with MUSC. Republican Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, who hopes to become the school’s next president, has said he favors that plan.

A presidential search committee at the college is interviewing potential presidents this week, and will recommend five names out of more than 100 to the Board of Trustees on Feb. 10. The board will ultimately decide who leads the school.

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