Cunningham calls on UofSC Board to accept President’s resignation following graduation speech plagiarism

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FILE – In this Monday, July 22, 2019, file photo, new University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen meets with alumni and others, in Columbia, S.C. Caslen, a retired Army general chosen to be the University of South Carolina’s president, says he has learned he needs to listen more and communicate his ideas better. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Gubernatorial hopeful and former U.S. Representative Joe Cunningham on Tuesday called on the University of South Carolina’s (UofSC) Board of Trustees to accept President Bob Caslen’s resignation following his disastrous graduation speech over the weekend, part of which he admitted to plagiarizing.

Caslen’s speech had many hiccups, including him referring to UofSC as the University of California.

In another blunder, Caslen used a quote from a 2014 speech by Admiral William McRaven and “failed to cite him.”

Caslen’s quote read:

“Know that life is not fair and if you’re like me you’ll fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down the cowardly bullies and lift up the downtrodden and never, never give up – if you do those things, the next generation and the generations to follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here – today – will indeed change the world for the better.”

McRaven’s 2014 speech read:

“Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here will indeed have changed the world — for the better.”

Caslen issued the following statement to students, faculty, and staff explaining the mishap:

I am truly sorry. During my remarks in our weekend commencement ceremonies, I shared a well-known quote from Admiral William McRaven and failed to cite him as its original author and speaker. I was searching for words about resilience in adversity and when they were transcribed into the speech, I failed to ensure its attribution. I take full responsibility for this oversight. I sincerely apologize to Admiral McRaven, someone I know and respect, our graduates, their families and the entire university community for not leading by example.”

Amid blowback from the speech, Caslen offered to resign, but the Board of Trustees declined his offer.

Cunningham said that Caslen’s “decision to resign was appropriate and the board should have accepted it. By rejecting his resignation, the Board of Trustees has set a double standard for the President and its students.”

Citing the university’s plagiarism policy, Cunningham said that holding “the employed face of this cherished institution to a different, lesser standard is a slap in the face to anyone who holds a degree from Carolina. The board should be ashamed by its inaction on holding Presidetn Caslen accountable.”

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