We welcome F. King Alexander to Baton Rouge as he begins his new job as president of LSU. Alexander, who previously served as president of California State University Long Beach, takes the helm of LSU on Monday, and he has a big job ahead of him.
LSU, which has struggled through multiyear budget cuts and a private endowment far smaller than those of its regional peers, needs an energetic and resourceful leader now more than ever.
Alexander arrives with a reputation for independent thinking and pragmatic management. Those virtues could help him navigate an especially harsh climate for higher education in Louisiana, where funding problems and high turnover in key positions have compromised LSU’s ability to meet its promise.
We didn’t agree with the secretive selection process that led to Alexander’s appointment as president. The Advocate is involved in a lawsuit against the LSU Board of Supervisors seeking documents related to the presidential search. We worry that the lack of transparency in the search process left the public without a clear assurance that the best person was picked for the job.
We hope that those documents are eventually released, and we hope that they affirm Alexander as the best choice for LSU’s presidency. Transparency and public engagement on this issue are vital, since no leader of LSU can lead alone.
Alexander will need wide support from key stakeholders throughout Louisiana to maintain and expand LSU’s position as a nationally recognized, top-tier research institution. Academic culture these days tends to elevate university presidents and chancellors as superstars, perhaps creating a sense of expectation that’s impossible to fulfill.
We want strong leadership from Alexander, but his mission to improve LSU can’t be viewed as a solo act. LSU’s broad community of supporters must also do their part. That shared sense of purpose depends on a free exchange of views, and we hope that Alexander’s ideas get a fair hearing, even if some of them might be different from those of legislative leaders, members of the LSU Board of Supervisors or the governor.
We wish Alexander luck. He will need plenty of it.
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