EDITORIAL: McNeese search must be open


Publication:American Press; Date:Apr 8, 2010; Section:Editorial; Page Number:A6    

    The quest for a new president for McNeese State University moves another step toward fruition today.

    The search committee of the University of Louisiana System board will meet in Baton Rouge to review applicants and choose semifinalists who will be invited for interviews next week on the McNeese campus.

    Those interviews will be open to the public.

    We are troubled by closeminded comments that have preceded today’s meeting.

    Carl Shetler, who represents Southwest Louisiana on the UL System board, said during a February board meeting that he would prefer the new president be a ‘’Southern’’ person.

    Now substitute race/gender/ethnicity/religious affiliation for ‘‘Southern.’’

    Appalled yet?

    This is the kind of provincialism that has held not only this area but this state back for years.

    Granted, the new president must be able to work within the university and throughout Southwest Louisiana. Must they have a ‘‘Southern’’ credential to do so?

    We think not.

    Tom Morris spearheaded successive record campaigns of the United Way of Southwest Louisiana before his death two years ago. Morris hailed from Michigan.

    Tom Shearman bought the American Press in 1943 and turned this newspaper into the leading voice for good government and a better quality of life in Southwest Louisiana.

    Born in Mount Olympia, Wash., and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Shearman lived in Illinois before moving his family here following his purchase of the newspaper.

    Even the namesake of the university, John McNeese, was born in Baltimore and served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

    Since McNeese, a pioneer educator in Southwest Louis–iana, would not have met Shetler’s ‘‘Southern’’ standards, would Shetler prefer that the name of the university be changed?

    The truth is, McNeese’s faculty, like the population of Southwest Louisiana, is graced with hard-working, intelligent, commendable people from not only across this nation, but around our globe.

    We’re alarmed at Shetler’s Neanderthal view and the indication that he has set some sort of informal litmus test for all candidates to undergo. Even worse, his comment could infer that he has a personal agenda, or that he already has a candidate in mind to support.

    We hope the committee is not influenced by Shetler’s shortsighted view.

    Dr. Randy Moffett, the head of the UL System and chairman of the search committee, promised an open search from the outset.

    Shetler and the rest of the committee should honor Moffett’s vow. McNeese deserves the best person available without regard to where he or she may currently live or work.