"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.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.