"I think candidates with better qualifications were skipped over," said Dr. Bob Gramling, a UL sociology professor, soon after the finalists were announced (visit www.ulsystem.net to review their qualifications). Like search committee member Dr. John Meriwether, the UL Faculty Senate's rep who would only say his top five were not the five chosen, Gramling declined to comment on anyone specifically. Paul Hilliard, however, did not mince words. "The lack of serious consideration of David Manuel's application is like the love of God ' it surpasses all understanding," says oilman Hilliard, a tireless UL supporter who has donated millions of dollars to the university.
As The Independent Weekly was going to press, public interviews of the five finalists were just beginning to take place at the LITE center. We can only hope each candidate gets a fair shake, but we have little doubt that either Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education E. Joseph ("T-Joe") Savoie or Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry will ultimately be the person the search committee recommends to the full UL System's board of supervisors, which is scheduled to vote on Authement's replacement Dec. 7.
This year-end deadline looks disturbingly like a concerted effort on the part of the search committee ' headed by UL System President Sally Clausen and including Gov. Blanco-appointed board of supervisors members ' to rush this replacement through while Kathleen Blanco is still in the governor's mansion. It is impossible to overlook the influence of the governor and her husband, longtime UL administrator Raymond "Coach" Blanco; Authement's surprise announcement came only a month after Blanco said she would not seek re-election, fueling speculation that the Blancos and Authement had been working behind the scenes in deciding the new president.
Sadly, that is the very reason the search did not yield a broader and more qualified field of candidates. There is a serious lack of trust plaguing this process, and some search committee members have privately acknowledged that potential candidates were unwilling to apply because of this issue alone.
There is no room for political maneuvering in a decision that is so critical to the future of our community. If Authement's 34-year history is any indication, the person who is named to this post may have a lengthy tenure, despite that the average term of a university president is five years.
Clearly, avoiding the appearance of favoritism was the impetus for opening up the process up to public scrutiny, which included two community hearings to seek input on qualifications, disclosure of all applications and public participation in the finalists' interviews. "The fact that nobody trusts this process is their problem, not ours," says Hilliard, who blames the "open process" for the paltry 38 applications. Like Stuller Inc.'s Chuck Lein, himself a former university president, Hilliard is steadfast in his belief that more qualified candidates would have stepped up if given assurances of privacy ' specifically sitting presidents or chancellors fearful of compromising their current jobs. "Did the process they actually followed improve the trust of the community?" Hilliard asks. "It was conducted about as well as FEMA handled Katrina." Hilliard and Lein argue that the application process should be scrapped in favor of the way searches are conducted in the private sector (and a recent one for the president of the LSU System).
However, the argument can also be made that there was plenty of leeway for Clausen, as well as the high-priced consultant who was hired to recruit candidates and others on the search committee, to do just that ' have private conversations with potential applicants. Once the candidate is comfortable with the situation and his or her chances of becoming a finalist, he can then decide whether to apply. How aggressive this search effort was is unknown, but it certainly was not fruitful.
We also aren't convinced this "transparency" somehow discouraged qualified candidates unwilling to compromise their existing jobs. The University of Florida is a model of openness that has not hampered its ability to attract good candidates. In fact, in 2003 then-LSU System President William Jenkins was a finalist for president of that university, and despite that he did not land the job, Jenkins remained exceptionally popular at LSU. In fact, he was so highly regarded that when he unexpectedly announced in early 2006 his plans to step down, local officials and legislators cried foul ' saying he was being forced out to pave the way for LSU System Chairman Bernie Boudreaux's girlfriend at the UL System, Clausen, to ascend to the post. Amid that heated controversy, Boudreaux resigned from the LSU board.
On Oct. 3, the UL search committee could have made the decision to continue looking for qualified candidates but instead immediately went to work narrowing the field to five. Plenty of time remains for this transition to take place; Authement is not going anywhere. He'll be president at least until next spring and wants to continue on in a fund-raising capacity after that.
It's unfortunate that so few community and business leaders truly believe a legitimate search has taken place for Authement's successor, but it's extremely disappointing to see only a couple speaking up about the questionable process. Perhaps by uniting on this issue they could wield their influence to slow the process and convince the committee to expand the search. Instead, we cannot shake the feeling that Authement's successor was decided some time ago, long before his April retirement announcement, long before three candidates traveled to Lafayette for this week's interviews.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 16, 2014:
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
Chris Williams knows how to pilfer from the public coffers, this time with a back-pay lawsuit filed three years ago against the Lafayette Housing Authority, which netted the former city-parish councilman a cool five figures.
McAllister's office vowed that he intended to stay in office — for now. As for questions about whether he would stand for re-election in November, those were dodged.
The Green Army's Lafayette brigade has announced it will pay a visit Friday morning to Sen. Page Cortez to urge him to vote against Sen. Robert Adley's SB 553, which the group is calling the "Big Oil Bailout Bill of 2014."
For the sixth consecutive year, Andy Nyman, LSU associate professor of wetland wildlife management, and his service-learning students plan to spend spring break differently from those students flooding the beaches of Florida.
When a BP oil well began gushing crude into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, fisherman George Barisich used his boat to help clean up the millions of gallons that spewed in what would become the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.
The legislation — House Bill 503 by state Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport — passed by an 8-5 vote and advances next to the full House.
The Republican Party of Louisiana has had enough with the philandering hypocrite Vance McAllister. David Vitter? Eh...
A top aide to a Louisiana congressman videotaped kissing a married woman who is not his wife was one of the few people with access to the leaked security footage that exposed the dalliance.
Louisiana would repeal an unconstitutional state law prohibiting intercourse between two people of the same sex, if lawmakers agree to a bill that narrowly received the backing of a House committee Wednesday.