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University of South Carolina President Resigns After Calling School by Wrong Name, Copying Speech

·2-min read

Mike Groll/AP/Shutterstock Robert Caslen

The president of the University of South Carolina has reportedly resigned from his post amid controversy after he admitted to plagiarizing parts of a commencement address and called the school by the wrong name.

Robert Caslen stepped down on Wednesday, and apologized to the school community in a statement published by The State in which he acknowledged a loss of "trust."

"Trust is the most important ingredient of effective leadership, and when it is lost, it is nearly impossible to lead. I believe that is the case right now between the University of South Carolina and its president. Therefore, I have submitted my resignation to the Board of Trustees this evening, May 12, and they have accepted it," Caslen said in the email. "I am sorry to those I have let down. 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."

Caslen was addressing the class of 2021 over the weekend when he congratulated the newest graduates of the "University of California," a slip of the tongue that drew laughter and confusion from the crowd.

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Caslen, a career Army officer and former superintendent of West Point, apologized for the error and corrected himself seconds later, then joked that he owed the audience pushups.

Controversy brewed further, however, after it was found that parts of his speech directly quoted a 2014 address at the University of Texas given by retired Navy admiral William McRaven without attribution, according to the State.

In a statement to NBC/CW affiliate WIS-TV, Caslen apologized for his plagiarism, and acknowledged that he had 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," he said. "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."

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According to the State, Caslen initially offered his resignation over the weekend to Board of Trustees Chair C. Dorn Smith, who did not accept it.

The school reportedly said that Caslen's accepted resignation will be effective starting Thursday.

A spokesperson for the University of South Carolina did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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