COLUMBIA, S.C. — Harris Pastides is not the interim president for the University of South Carolina--at least not yet. In fact right now, the college has no president at all.
The school cleared up some confusion Thursday about the transition that's taking place after former President Bob Caslen's resignation Wednesday night. In a statement about the move released shortly after Caslen tendered his notice, the school said that Harris Pastides, the school's president from 2008 to 2019, would become the interim.
News19 asked further about this process, and the school clarified Thursday that Pastides actually doesn't have that role just yet. And since Caslen's resignation was effective Thursday morning, there is no current president.
Jeff Stensland, a spokesperson for USC, said USC Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Dorn Smith III asked Pastides Wednesday night to serve as interim and he said yes. But a formal vote of the trustees must take place on Friday, May 21 before that's official. There must be public notice of the meeting as well.
Stensland also said that there was no formal board vote on Caslen's resignation, and it was his the formal leader's right to end his employment from the school.
Caslen said Wednesday in a letter to students and staff that he felt he'd lost the trust of the university after it was revealed he'd plagiarized a small section of his graduation address last Friday night from a speech given seven years earlier by retired Navy Admiral William McCraven at the University of Texas.
In the same address, Caslen also mistakenly referred to the school's graduates, when he told them, "it's now my honor and privilege to officially congratulate you as the newest alumni from the University of California."
Caslen quickly apologized on stage and offered to do push-ups.
But the combined controversies angered some alumni and students. Caslen offered to resign Sunday after the plagiarism accusation was made, according to the school, but the board chair didn't accept. But even when that offer became public, and he apologized, it didn't quiet Caslen's critics.
"I am sorry to those I have let down," Caslen said in his statement upon resigning. "I understand the responsibilities and higher standards of senior level leadership. When those are not met, trust is lost. And when trust is lost, one is unable to lead."
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a strong supporter of Caslen, said the former president did a "splendid" job and that he was "sorry to see him go."
He also said Pastides is a "stellar man," and added "I think we're lucky that he's available."
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.
Caslen is a retired Army three-star general and former superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point.