Former USC president’s son defends father, calls USC a ‘toxic atmosphere’

·4 min read

Days after the University of South Carolina president resigned under scandal, his son took to Twitter to defend his father and criticize the school.

In a tweet thread, Nick Caslen called USC a “toxic atmosphere,” labeled some faculty as childish, and said the school’s board of trustees set the former president “up for failure” when it controversially elected him president in 2019.

In one severe critique, Caslen condemned faculty members.

“2 years ago I introduced myself in an open letter to @UofSC,” he wrote. “It was well received by some, but sadly mocked and ridiculed childishly by most. Sadly mostly by faculty. The hate I experienced exemplified to me the true ’Carolina Creed’. Sad to see ‘professionals’ act like that.”

The Carolinian Creed is USC’s value statement which focuses on academic integrity and respecting others.

Caslen added, “It’s evident that the example of accountability displayed by my father was lost on so many affiliated with @UofSC. Lost on everyone who apparently has life figured out. I doubt many will ever learn that lesson and I feel sorry for them.”

Bob Caslen resigned as president Wednesday after he plagiarized part of his commencement speech, delivered last weekend, and referred to the recent graduates as the latest alumni of the “University of California.”

Once news broke about the similarities between Caslen’s speech and one given by retired Navy Admiral William McRaven, Caslen admitted that he failed to attribute the passage to its author and apologized. FITSNews was first to report the similarities between the speeches.

“Trust is the most important ingredient of effective leadership, and when it is lost, it is nearly impossible to lead,” he said in a statement about his resignation. “I believe that is the case right now between the University of South Carolina and its president.”

McRaven later said in a statement to NBC News that Caslen owed him no apology.

“Bob Caslen is one of the finest and most honorable officers with whom I ever served. I was flattered that he thought my words were worth repeating and he certainly doesn’t owe me an apology,” McRaven said.

Nick Caslen began his thread, which he posted Saturday, as a defense of his father.

“It is impossible for me to be more proud of my father Bob Caslen for having the moral courage and character to stand up and do the right thing in a difficult time, setting an example of accountability in leadership a lot of people affiliated with could stand to learn,” he wrote.

“Let me be clear, my fathers mistake was in no way the deliberate deception being portrayed,” he added.

Caslen said he told his dad for two years, his entire tenure, that he should “step down and stop putting himself through the relentless attacks on his character and legacy. The saddest of which came from faculty and alumni of @UofSC. He was libeled daily as a war criminal, a racist and abuse enabler.”

He praised his father’s response to the coronavirus and quoted a statement Admiral McRaven gave to the New York Times. “Honorable men and women make mistakes. It doesn’t make them less honorable. It just makes them human. I was terribly sorry to hear that (Bob Caslen) resigned. It is a loss for U.S.C.”

But the majority of the thread was dedicate to criticizing USC.

“Nothing he could do would ever be enough to satisfy a critic,” Nick Caslen wrote. “It is clear to me the (board of trustees) set him up for failure from the start.”

His father “never had a chance of succeeding ... due to the toxic atmosphere pervasive at @UofSC,” Caslen said.

He wrote that USC didn’t take online verbal abuse against Caslen and his family seriously, allowing it to continue.

Nick Caslen said he was likely going to delete his Twitter account which would remove the thread.

Caslen came the university under tumultuous circumstances.

The board of trustees narrowly elected Caslen president in a 11-8 vote. Gov. Henry McMaster was perceived to have pushed through Caslen’s appointment. That led the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to investigate, resulting in a finding that McMaster had exerted “undue influence” in the hiring process.

A career Army officer and former superintendent of West Point, Caslen also was panned by critics for his lack of an academic background or doctoral degree. Students also highlighted his involvement in the Iraq War and comments critics perceived to be blaming “binge drinking” for campus sexual assault.

As USC president, Caslen tried to undo his rocky start by meeting with many of his critics from the appointment process. He was often seen working out at the Strom Thurmond campus gym and posing for selfies with students around campus.

The news of Nick Caslen’s tweet thread was first reported by The Post and Courier.

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