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GSU prez search timeline set

Community gives feedback as process gets underway
Sunday, November 19, 2023
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Leader photo by Caleb Daniel Grambling State student Elanah Wilson addresses the search committee for the next GSU president during the committee’s first meeting Friday morning on GSU campus.

The selection of Grambling State University’s next president is tentatively slated for late February.

The search committee tasked with vetting candidates for the head desk at GSU adopted its search timeline at its first meeting Friday on campus in Grambling.

Rick Gallot, who’s served as Grambling State’s 10th president for more than seven years, will assume the presidency of the University of Louisiana System — which governs GSU, Louisiana Tech and seven other institutions — on Jan. 1, 2024.

The UL System Board of Supervisors plans to appoint an interim president at its Dec. 7 meeting who will serve from Jan. 1 until a permanent 11th president of GSU is named.

If the timeline adopted Friday holds, that will happen on either Feb. 21 or 22.

It starts with an advertisement for applications that will begin running as early as this week.

Preferred date for application submissions is Jan. 12. The search committee will receive the list of candidates on Jan. 17 and meet in Baton Rouge on Jan. 22 to review the applications and select semifinalists.

Then the semifinalists will be interviewed on GSU campus on the week of Feb. 5, which will include meetings with students, faculty and alumni groups. The committee will select finalists that week, and then the full UL System board will make its final selection on Feb. 21 or 22.

“I may be a bit biased, but I believe the 11th president will have the best and brightest student body of any institution anywhere,” Gallot said in his opening remarks.

“Our next leader must be able to answer three important questions when making decisions. First, is it good for the students? Second, is it good for the university? And lastly, is it sustainable?”

Faculty, students and community members gave public comment on their hopes and expectations for the next president and the search process for more than an hour at Friday’s meeting.

“We are at a crossroads,” alumna and faculty member Suzanne Mayo said. “We can’t get this wrong this time. We’ve got to get it right.”

Several commenters said they hoped the next GSU president would work well with the broader Grambling community.

“On behalf of my neighbor, Mrs. Nelda Baisy, she wants to find somebody that can come around in the community and just let us know what’s going on on campus,” Mayo said. “We want to kind of connect the community to the university.”

Some faculty members also urged the committee to make sure the next president will prioritize faculty resources.

“The faculty are going to be the ones shaping our product, shaping the students that will go out and be the future of the workforce,” said Edward Holt, head of GSU’s History Department. “So we need somebody that is not looking to come in and streamline faculty, but rather looking to enhance the faculty that are here, enhance faculty support.”

Gary Poe, president of Grambling’s Faculty Senate and the only voting member of the search committee from outside the UL System board, was more direct, saying faculty are “severely underpaid” and suggesting the next president should seek to boost pay up to the regional average.

The search committee’s voting members are Poe and eight of the UL System board’s 16 members. It’s co-chaired by Gallot and outgoing UL System President Jim Henderson.

There are also eight non-voting advisory members selected from the university and community.

Athletics came up a few times throughout the commentary. One faculty member said GSU is “an athletic institution” and the next president should be athletic-friendly, while an advisory member of the committee later said the university is “an academic institution” first and foremost.

Some said the next leader should be familiar with the Grambling culture, while others said the university should lessen “institutional incest” and get more outside perspectives.

After the meeting, Henderson, who’s already spearheaded seven president searches across the system, said he was impressed with the breadth and depth of the feedback.

“It was as rich and substantive as any of the eight that I’ve participated in,” he said. “It was obvious that Grambling is important to this community and this state, and the feedback represented that.”

The search committee is ultimately tasked with recommending at least two candidates to the UL System board for consideration. The panel will return to GSU campus once semifinalists have been named.