LETTER: Why rush McNeese search?

Published by the American Press

    The search for a new president for McNeese State University is a matter of great importance for our entire community, not just those of us who work at the university. Given this, recent developments in the last few days are disturbing.

    The search committee met Thursday in Baton Rouge to select the semi-finalists, who are to be interviewed next week on campus in public meetings. Yet the CVs of many of the applicants were still appearing on the UL system Web site only Tuesday night, and in fact the CVs from those applicants acquired via the hired consulting firm were not available at all, even to the search committee, until Thursday’s meeting. The timetable for the interviews, scheduled for this week, gives very little lead time for interested community members, students and faculty to re-arrange their own schedules in order to attend open meetings.

    On Wednesday, the McNeese Faculty Senate met, and though there was not a quorum, those in attendance stayed and discussed the presidential search. They agreed on the following statement:

    “The members of the Faculty Senate of McNeese State University strongly object to the aggressive timetable for the McNeese presidential search. This abbreviated schedule has negated the assertion of openness and transparency to the process. Resumes of candidates continue to be added this week, leaving no time for faculty, students, or the community to provide any input to the committee. This rushed timetable is especially troubling given that the search at Grambling University has been postponed to allow further time for receipt and review of candidates. Concern was also expressed about the complete lack of information regarding any candidates which may emanate from the contracted search firm.”

    Dr. Linda Larson, the Faculty Senate president, is the faculty representative on the presidential search committee, and the Senate members empowered her to request that next week’s interviews be delayed one or two weeks in order to give more time for people to read CVs, rearrange schedules for attending, etc. This request was denied by the search committee.

    Consequently, this next week will be a vital one, and it is crucial for all interested community members to attend as many of the meetings as possible. Come and ask questions of the four semi-finalists; observe the committee interviews of each. One of these four people will be the university’s next president.

    Just as a point of interest, we have been told that this process will cost the university somewhere in the range of $100,000. In light of our budget woes, this money is dearly needed in many areas. Ironically, it must be spent in search of a president who will immediately have to deal with a shrinking budget that is affecting academics adversely.

    Certainly some in the community as well as on campus doubt not only the asserted transparency of the search process but the very search itself. Someone on campus told me Thursday that, ‘‘Given that kind of cost to Louisiana taxpayers, the search committee has an obligation to choose the best possible person to lead McNeese and not automatically default to the candidate with the inside track.’’

    I urge all readers to go online to the UL System Web site, to the McNeese presidential search links, and to read the CVs for all four semi-finalists. Please take time to submit comments about the candidates and the process to the committee. They do get your comments and they do read them.

    The rushed timetable leaves us little time for such an undertaking, but the outcome — a new president for the university — is one that will affect the entire community for many years to come. The final decision will be made not by the search committee, with the sole MSU faculty member, but the University of Louisiana board itself, without one MSU voice of any kind. That board needs to know the community is involved, aware, and vocal in its interest and concerns.

    Regardless of which candidate is chosen, the next president of the university will be selected from the four candidates we can observe and question next week.

    Please come to the university and participate.


    Lake Charles