By Robert Mann

A secretive, out-of-touch group comprised mostly of older white men has given us the signal that we have a new leader.whitesmokefeat

No, I’m not talking about the white smoke that rose last week from the Sistine Chapel, heralding the selection of a new pope.

I’m talking about the LSU Board of Supervisors.

Habemus Presidentum.

The LSU Board conclave ended today with the announcement of F. King Alexander, president of California State University Long Beach, as the sole finalist for the system president’s job.

Much like the selection of the pope, the process of hiring a new LSU leader was conducted entirely in secret. Much like the Catholic Church, the rank-and-file has no say in the matter.

Unlike the Catholic Church, however, LSU is a public institution, which should have made this process subject to the state’s public records law.

Of course, that’s not how Gov. Bobby Jindal and his handmaidens run the place. The LSU Board of Cardinals doesn’t consider itself responsible to anyone but Jindal.

Student and faculty input? Come on, you must think this is some kind of transparent democracy.

The secretive (and possibly illegal) process by which the LSU Board arrived at its selection means that the new president begins his reign — tenure — with the enthusiastic support of virtually no one on campus, save the various senior university officials who are required to swear allegiance in order to keep their jobs.

Maybe Alexander will earn our respect, and I sincerely hope he turns out to be the forceful and visionary leader LSU needs. (And at least his name isn’t Stephen Moret. I’m glad I was wrong about that.)

But I’m not hopeful.

Surely Alexander reads the newspapers. He must know that former Chancellor Mike Martin and former System President John Lombardi were chased out of town by Jindal and his LSU board. Martin, in particular, sealed his fate when he publicly complained about the damage to LSU caused by Jindal’s deep budget cuts. Jindal does not brook dissent in his ranks.

What is the chance that Alexander will be a brave and independent soul willing to speak truth to power?

What’s the chance that Pope Francis is a secret Methodist?

A brave and independent soul would not have accepted the job if he knew anything about the way Jindal runs LSU.

So, now it’s not enough that Jindal has decimated LSU’s budget; his secretive board now presents the campus with its new leader, fait accompli.

President Alexander may not wear a white cassock or sport a silver cross, but make no mistake – he was selected and will be installed by people who have no more concern for the public’s will than that which attended the selection of our new pope.

Perhaps that’s how a church should operate. It’s no way to run a public university.