A skeptical person might be forgiven for suspecting that the LSU Board of Supervisors — now packed with appointees of Gov. Bobby Jindal — is moving toward giving Jindal pal and Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret a new job.
That would be president of the LSU System.
First, there was interim LSU President William Jenkins telling the Baton Rouge Rotary Club on Monday that the system president probably shouldn’t be a person with a PhD. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Jenkins suggested that perhaps LSU needs a “‘nontraditional’ president who has a second-in-command that is comfortable with overseeing the campus.”
In the same speech, Jenkins seemed to suggest that filling the president’s job might also be a bit challenging.
“LSU has had a transformational impact on my life and is one of Louisiana’s most important economic assets, so I have a great interest in its future,” said Moret, an LSU graduate, said in an email to The News-Star. “Accordingly, I’m delighted that the LSU Board of Supervisors is kicking off a national search to find the best person to be the next president of the LSU System.”
Moret went on to say, “I’m totally focused on doing the best job that I can for the people of Louisiana in my current role.”
When asked again by email specifically if he would consider a candidacy for the LSU system president’s job, Moret didn’t reply.
I hope I’m wrong, but it looks as if the LSU train is moving in Moret’s direction.
What’s the evidence beyond Moret’s refusal to comment on whether he would take the job if offered? It’s most circumstantial, but consider this scenario:
1. LSU announces a search for a new president, including the hiring of a well-paid search firm.
2. LSU officials later say that, despite the very lucrative nature of the position, the job of president might be difficult to fill, thereby sending the message that a local candidate may already have the inside track.
3. Days later, the suspected holder of the inside track declines the opportunity to forswear interest in the job, thereby further fueling speculation that the governor has chosen a candidate for his board to approve.
4. The news about numbers 2 and 3 may be enough to discourage qualified, legitimate applicants to apply for the job, thereby creating the desired sub-par applicant field.
5. In “desperation,” board members turn to Moret, who waits patiently in the wings as the search plays out.
Maybe it won’t happen. I hope it doesn’t. LSU deserves a strong, credible nationally recognized leader by virtue of the vigorous national search that Moret says he wants.
Who knows, Moret could prove a strong candidate in a real and legitimate national search. He’s an impressive guy with great credentials and he obviously loves LSU.
But if he gets the job simply because of Jindal’s patronage, after a faux search, then we’re just one step closer to LSU becoming an underfunded, politicized repository for the governor’s friends.
Unfortunately (the underfunded part), it’s already halfway there.