Retired Lieutenant General Robert Caslen, pictured in 2014 when he was Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. On Wednesday, he resigned as president of the University of South Carolina. Mike Groll / AP Hide caption
Mike Groll / AP
Mike Groll / AP
Seniors at the University of South Carolina had already grappled with a disaster – the pandemic – when they took their socially distant seats at the school’s opening ceremony last weekend.
Then there was another train accident.
The president of the university, Robert Caslen, delivered a speech so botched – with the wrong school name and closing remarks removed almost verbatim from another famous speech – that it resulted in widespread criticism of lawmakers in South Carolina from social media users.
Now, less than a week later, Caslen has resigned.
“I’m really sorry,” said Caslen, a retired army lieutenant general, in a statement announcing his resignation. “I was looking for words about resilience in adversity and when they were translated into the speech I did not ensure their assignment. I take full responsibility for this oversight.”
Criticism of Caslen’s address, delivered on Friday night, began immediately after he called the students “the University of California’s newest alumni” to shock the crowd.
After a nearby university official whispered “South Carolina”, Caslen corrected himself and joked about the crowd’s push-ups.
But it was plagiarism that ultimately led to his resignation.
In the closing words of his address, Caslen urged the graduates to courageously deal with adversity.
“Know that life is not fair and if you are like me you will often fail,” said Caslen. “But if you take some risk, you step into the toughest of times, face the cowardly thugs and pick up the downtrodden – and never give up – if you do these things, the next generation and generations will be Live in it A world far better than the one we have today. And what started here today will indeed change the world for the better. “
But these words were copied almost identically from a famous opening speech 2014 given by Adm. William McRaven, the Navy SEAL who oversaw the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. Caslen did not attribute the words to McRaven, whose speech was viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube.
Caslen’s plagiarism was first reported by FITSNews in South Carolina, announced by a source. After that, criticism spread widely on social media and hit the bottom of the South Carolina Statehouse.
“He has given the university a lot of negative attention. This is how it is judged,” said MP Kirkman Finlay Post and courier. “We are the mockery of the nation. Perhaps it is time to reduce our losses.”
The university authorities initially rejected his resignation offer, but accepted it on Wednesday after the news spread.
Caslen’s two-year tenure as university president has been criticized since he was hired. Many faculties and students turned down his appointment, saying he had no qualifications. Shortly after it began, the faculty’s senate unanimously approved a vote of no confidence.
Since then, the school has faced Alleged abuse of sexual harassment complaintsand her biggest donor, businesswoman Darla Moore, cut ties with the school, for which Caslen assumed responsibility.
The university named former president Harris Pastides as interim president while the board of trustees seeks a permanent replacement.