Letter: The search for LSU’s president

News coverage of the LSU presidential search has been extensive, but it is important for the people of Louisiana and the LSU community to fully understand the entire sequence of events.

A 12-member search committee, including a student and three faculty members, was charged last fall to attract a quality, experienced sitting president from a major university. The search process was outlined in public meetings, a process similar in structure to searches at many major public research universities.

Our consultant emphasized it was necessary to actively “recruit” candidates as a sitting president was not likely to apply for the job and risk his or her current position.

All meetings pertaining to the search were open to the public with the exception of only closed portions when names and qualifications of individual candidates were discussed in executive session.

Ten individuals, none of whom was a sitting president, responded to advertisements to apply for the job. The names of these applicants were produced to inquiring news organizations.

In addition to the 10 applicants, a pool of candidates was identified by the search firm.

Five appeared to possess the qualities the committee deemed critical for this role. Three accepted invitations to be interviewed. Each of the three — presidents or chancellors of major universities — was interviewed by a search team subcommittee.

One interviewee emerged as the clear choice and the subcommittee recommended the full committee interview him in Baton Rouge. The day following the interview, the search committee recommended to the Board of Supervisors that Dr. F. King Alexander be considered for the position of LSU president.

Dr. Alexander spent the following week meeting with students, faculty, administrators and constituents. Only after a week of public vetting of the candidate did the board unanimously elect Dr. Alexander as LSU’s next president.

In summary, this search was conducted in a manner consistent with presidential searches conducted at most public research universities. Last week, the largest university system in the country selected Janet Napolitano, as the president of the California system, after a closed search process. (The Advocate praised Ms. Napolitano in an editorial July 15.) Most importantly, we believe LSU’s search was conducted in full compliance with Louisiana Public Records Law.

Our committee is proud of the success of this process. Dr. Alexander has an accomplished track record and is well-respected nationally as a leader in higher education. We are fortunate that he and his family wanted to return to the South and that he recognized the special qualities in LSU.

These have been challenging years for our university, but we are confident that great things lie ahead thanks to our dedicated faculty, wonderful students, the great people of Louisiana and our new leader.

Blake Chatelain, member

LSU Board of Supervisors