Committee hopes to have LSU head by June

LSU has about 30 candidates on the short list to become the university’s next president, but the public should not expect to learn who any of them are until a finalist is chosen, university officials said Friday.

Presidential Search Committee Chairman Blake Chatelain said the panel is working to narrow the candidate pool down to about 10 applicants with hopes of having a new president chosen by June.

Chatelain, on Friday, reiterated the board’s position of keeping candidate names confidential, in hopes of attracting the brightest talent.

LSU has a history of conducting secretive hiring practices including past searches of top executives no longer with the university, such as, John Lombardi, when he has hired as LSU System president, and both Sean O’Keefe and Michael Martin when they were tapped as chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus.

Friday’s search committee meeting stayed true to form. Committee members heard a short presentation from a consultant before going into a roughly 90-minute long closed-door session to discuss the candidates.

After the meeting, Chatelain said some of the best candidates already have jobs and don’t want to let their current employers know they are looking elsewhere.

“If we don’t keep this confidential, we’ll limit our candidate field,” Chatelain said. “This is not uncommon at all.”

LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope called the process “backward” and said “truly excellent universities require the list of candidates to be released months before a selection is made to give the public a chance to weigh in.”

A secret search, Cope said, won’t lead to a “courageous or bold leader, but rather someone who is timid and likely afraid to stand his or her ground.”

Chatelain, however, said “the committee is very pleased with the quality of candidates.” Many of them, he said, “are interested in the position because of the changes that have been made to restructure this university.”

LSU leadership is currently undergoing a top-to-bottom reorganization of the system’s $3.5 billion network of four university campuses, a law school, two medical schools, 10 hospitals and dozens of outpatient medical clinics across Louisiana.

LSU Board of Supervisors Chairman Hank Danos called the restructuring necessary to create a more streamlined university positioned to compete over the next several decades. “We’re determined to get it right,” Danos said.

One of the first streamlining actions taken by the board was a surprise vote in October to combine the system president and Baton Rouge chancellor positions.

A week after the vote, Dallas-based search consultant Bill Funk said merging the positions would make LSU more attractive in a climate, in which other major research universities are also looking for new presidents.

On Friday, Funk said the LSU job has attracted significant interest around the country even as schools like Princeton University, the University of Alabama and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are also conducting searches.

Funk said LSU has attracted “a surprising number of sitting presidents and chancellors,” former administrators and “a sprinkling of nontraditional candidates.”

“The pool is diverse in ethnicity and gender,” he said, with interest coming from all corners of the country, “from coast to coast, and from border to border.”

Funk said although he is happy with the diversity of the candidates, the search has been targeted toward sitting chancellors and presidents. “Because this is not a position for a beginner,” Funk said.

LSU has been without a permanent president since late April when the board dismissed Lombardi, saying his brash behavior hurt its standing with legislators and Gov. Bobby Jindal. Former Baton Rouge Chancellor Martin left LSU in August to become head of the Colorado State University System.

Former president and chancellor William Jenkins was lured out of retirement in April and has been filling both roles since August.