By Robert Mann
So, LSU has a new system president — at least it will, once the Board of Supervisors endorses a search committee’s recommendation.
The public, students, faculty and staff know virtually nothing about their new president, other than what little we’ve learned from reading his impressive speeches online. (He’s on campus this week, meeting with students and faculty, which amounts to conducting the job interview after making the hire.)
We don’t know the names of other potential candidates who were contacted by the search firm. We don’t know what questions potential candidates asked about LSU and Baton Rouge and how those questions were answered. We don’t know the criteria the board used in identifying prospective candidates for the job.
In fact, we have no idea if the search firm or board committee interviewed anyone other than white men.
Was there any attempt to recruit a minority candidate or a female? We have no idea.
Just about every question you could conceive to ask about this search cannot – or will not – be answered by the Board of Supervisors, because everything it did was behind closed doors.
We’re told that secretive searches are necessary to discover great candidates for such jobs, but scores of public universities find their leaders in open searches.
This is not about effectiveness as much as respect – or, really, lack of respect for the public, students and faculty.
In Louisiana, the unwashed are apparently not competent to judge the suitability of King Alexander and the other candidates who were interviewed for the job. The only people competent to assess the qualifications of an LSU president, it seems, are the 16 white males and one black woman (all appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal) who sit on the board.
Isn’t it surprising that 16 white men, deliberating behind closed doors, hired a white man for the job? Maybe no minorities applied; maybe none are qualified. But how would we know this without an open search?
There’s so much we do not know. And that is precisely the problem.
What we do know is this: In the past year, there’s been a disturbing exodus of top talent from LSU, not to mention the hemorrhaging of top faculty.
Jindal and his board don’t brook dissent in their ranks and have fired or forced out System President John Lombardi, General Counsel Raymond Lamonica and LSU Health System head Fred Cerise.
And then there’s the stampede of senior officials who have left willingly, more or less — Chancellor Mike Martin (forced to “resign” by Jindal and his board for his dissent), Vice Provost Katrice Albert, Vice Chancellor and CFO Eric Monday, Business School Dean Eli Jones, and Dean of the College of Science Kevin Carman.
Jindal and his board didn’t fire all of these individuals. But he has pushed out or chased off enough top LSU officials to cause one to ask why anyone who is as dynamic, innovative and independent as Alexander would want his new job.
If he speaks truth to power, it’s clear he won’t be here for long.
If he doesn’t assert his independence or if he refrains from speaking inconvenient truths, then I’m sure the LSU board and Jindal’s aides will love him.
But will he be of any use to LSU and its students?
- Habemus Presidentum: Secretive LSU conclave picks a new president (bobmannblog.com)
- LSU Faculty Senate votes ‘no confidence’ in board (wwltv.com)
- A Cal State Chief Is Named Sole Finalist for Top Job at LSU (chronicle.com)
- Dr. F. King Alexander recommended to be LSU’s new President-Chancellor (wafb.com)