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USC president offers to resign, board chair doesn't accept it

Bob Caslen had two controversies involving his graduation speech last Friday.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen offered to resign his job over two controversies involving last weekend's graduation but the chairman of the school's board of trustees rejected it.

UofSC spokesman Jeff Stensland confirmed Caslen made the offer verbally but that Dorn Smith did not take it, meaning Caslen is still the head of the school.

Caslen's problems involve his remarks at the commencement ceremony held last Friday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. Caslen's first irked graduates and attendees when he told graduates, moments after they turned their tassels on their caps, "it's now my honor and privilege to officially congratulate you as the newest alumni from the University of California."

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The crowd began to murmur and a moment later someone off camera near Caslen says "Carolina." Caslen then corrected himself, saying "Carolina, sorry about that," telling the crowd he owned the graduates push ups. 

Then on Sunday, political blog FitsNews reported that a paragraph from Caslen's speech might have been lifted from an address made by retired Navy Admiral Williiam McRaven seven years ago. 

A day later, Caslen acknowledged in a letter to students and alumni that he used the quote and didn't properly attribute it. 

"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," Caslen wrote. "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."

Caslen became president of the school in 2019 after a contentious process that saw some faculty openly object to the pick. In the end, he was elected on an 11-8 vote, with one trustee voting present. 

RELATED: Robert Caslen picked as new University of South Carolina president

News 19 reached out to the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees but have not received comment from them at this time.

Caslen is a retired Army general and former superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  

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