LSU System Information

Presidential Search in the News

Dallas search firm hired to look for LSU's next president, as questions remain about job scope

By MELINDA DESLATTE | Associated Press
July 27, 2012

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - LSU's presidential search committee Friday selected a Dallas-based firm to help recruit and do background research on candidates, though it remains unclear if the committee will be looking for a system leader to also serve as chancellor of the flagship campus in Baton Rouge.

The search committee -- made up of members of the university's governing board, the Board of Supervisors -- chose R. William Funk & Associates as its search firm. Committee Chairman Blake Chatelain said the company submitted a bid to do the work for $120,000 plus expenses.

Chatelain acknowledged the search can't begin, however, until the Board of Supervisors determines if it will combine the system president job with the chancellor's position. Both are vacant.

"We've got to define what exactly it is we're searching for," Chatelain said. "That's the next step."

No timetable has been set for choosing a new university leader, who will be in charge of a multibillion-dollar system of four university campuses, a law school, medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport and a network of 10 public hospitals and dozens of clinics across Louisiana.

The job is fraught with financial woes, as state funding to higher education has been repeatedly cut over the last four years and the LSU public hospital system is struggling with cuts announced earlier this month that threaten the long-term viability of some of its facilities.

John Lombardi was fired as LSU System president in April, after he clashed with Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration over higher education policy and criticism about his leadership style.

Meanwhile, LSU Chancellor Mike Martin is leaving the Baton Rouge campus this summer to lead the Colorado State University System.

Some LSU supporters and business leaders have suggested the two positions could be merged into one role to emphasize the importance of the flagship campus and to streamline administrative operations.

Members of the LSU Board of Supervisors said they are considering the idea.

Chatelain said a higher education consultant hired earlier this year to gather information and recommendations from faculty, staff, students, alumni and other university leaders is looking at the merged position idea as it does its research, which includes reviewing how other university systems around the country are led. He said the board will review the research at an August retreat.

"I would hope by the end of August we can clarify some of those unanswered questions," he said.

The search committee interviewed leaders from two search firms Friday before choosing Funk & Associates. The head of the company, Bill Funk, said he's been part of more than 350 presidential and chancellor searches over the last 30 years and has worked with LSU in a previous search.

Though the LSU System continues to face budget worries, Funk said he expects to recruit a strong pool of candidates for the president's job, noting that higher education campuses around the nation have similar financial struggles.

"No one is really in better shape than you," he told committee members.

Ann Duplessis, a board member from New Orleans, said search committee members are interested in nontraditional candidates who might not come with a background of years of higher education work.

Funk said more nontraditional candidates are being considered around the country in college leadership searches, but he said that so far they still are rarely chosen and that only a small slice of campuses have tapped people outside of higher education for the top jobs.


Dallas firm chosen to lead search for LSU president

BY KORAN ADDO | Advocate Capitol news bureau
July 30, 2012

LSU’s presidential search committee picked a Dallas-based firm on Friday to recruit candidates in what has been estimated will be a six-month search.

LSU and its associated foundations will pay R. Williams Funk & Associates $120,000 plus expenses to lead the search.

The firm, which recently recruited Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to become president of Purdue University, has finished seven searches in the last 60 days, President Bill Funk told the committee Friday.

LSU has been without a leader since the Board of Supervisors fired John Lombardi in April.

Some board members said Lombardi’s brash style was compromising their clout with the state Legislature.

The person selected will be in charge of LSU’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 is also looking for someone to lead the Baton Rouge campus after Chancellor Michael Martin accepted an offer to become the head of the Colorado State University System in May.

Blake Chatelain, chairman of the LSU System Presidential Search Committee, didn’t rule out the possibility of combining the president and chancellor positions.

LSU has already contracted with the Washington, D.C.-based AGB consulting firm to help shape the parameters of the search. The firm was in Baton Rouge in late June interviewing faculty, deans and alumni to collect input on the type of leader best suited to run the LSU System.

The firm previously came to Baton Rouge in 2006 to work on a prior presidential search at which time the idea of merging the two positions was also discussed.

LSU’s search panel bypassed AGB’s recruiting arm, AGB Search, on Friday in favor of the Dallas company with committee members saying they felt more comfortable with Funk.

On Friday, Funk suggested LSU start with identifying between 20 and 30 prospects but cautioned that candidate pools are smaller than in the past. Ideal selections are candidates who aren’t looking for jobs, but rather, a person that has to be actively recruited, he said.

One major concern LSU will have to deal with is the state’s expected loss of more than $300 million in Medicaid funding, much of which will impact the LSU System, Funk said.

LSU’s hospital system has the potential to bring in dollars through science and technology grants, but could also prove to be a headache for any new president, Funk said.

Another consideration for LSU is the balancing act of keeping the public informed while granting candidates privacy. The best candidates also are particularly concerned with confidentiality, he said.

“They have more to lose. They don’t want to do anything to jeopardize anything back home,” Funk said.

During a roughly 90-minute question-and-answer session, committee member Ann Duplessis, of New Orleans, questioned Funk about nontraditional candidates.

Funk said he’s expecting more schools around the country to look at candidates with varied backgrounds not necessarily in education.

The role of a system president is less about academia and more about looking for grants and thinking about the big picture, Funk said.

After the meeting, LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope called the discussion of nontraditional candidates troublesome.

“That’s just another way of saying that person has fewer academic qualifications. The faculty needs to see that the board is in favor of someone who represents academic excellence,” Cope said.


LSU urged to adapt to changes in higher ed

BY KORAN ADDO | Advocate Capitol news bureau
July 31, 2012

An author and lecturer on the future of America’s colleges warned the LSU Board of Supervisors they need to adapt to changes in higher education before universities go the way of the newspaper.

One of his central arguments was that colleges in the future may not be able to sell students on the age-old argument that students who enroll in traditional schools generally earn more money after they graduate.

Jeff Selingo, the editorial director of The Chronicle of Higher Education, a Washington, D.C.-based weekly newspaper and website, said newspaper executives made three big mistakes in the 1990s that have since cost the industry a significant slice of the news market.

Newspaper executives were guilty of hubris, skeptical of anything new and unwilling to hear opposing viewpoints on the future of the business, he said during his presentation to the board on Friday.

Decision makers underestimated the convenience and portability of the internet and its ability to deliver news, Selingo said.

Colleges are facing a similar situation as government funding support to higher education has dropped, tuition is on the rise and people start to question the value of the traditional university setting, he said.

Selingo called the period between 1999 and 2009 “A Decade of More” for higher education. Student enrollment increased by one-third, degrees awarded rose by 21 percent and colleges took on $277 billion worth of debt, he said.

“Before, people were willing to go to any college at any price. Then the recession hit,” Selingo said.

In 2003, only two colleges cost $40,000 per year. More than 200 schools charged that much by 2009 with 58 of them charging $50,000 per year or more, Selingo said.

“The discussions among students and parents going forward will be about the value of college. The question is going to be ‘what am I paying for,’ ” Selingo said.

And colleges shouldn’t count on a “boom time” when the recession ends as has been the case after other economic downturns. “There is a new normal in higher education because of technology,” Selingo said.

A 2011 Sloan Foundation survey found that the number of college students taking one or more online courses has exceeded 6 million and nearly one-third of all higher education students are taking at least one online course.

Some of the country’s most prestigious schools are leading the way.

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have collaborated on Edx, a free nonprofit learning venture, while two Stanford computer scientists have created and found funding for Coursera, a for-profit company offering hundreds of online courses.

Edx and Coursera are examples of the platform known as massive open online courses, known as MOOCs.

Coursera has established partnerships with more than a dozen schools including Princeton University, the University of Michigan, Duke University and Johns Hopkins University.

In a July 11 blog post on the Chronicle’s website, Selingo wrote that he could see universities replacing high-cost remedial courses with MOOCs to replace or supplement those noncredit courses.

At LSU on Friday, Selingo counseled the board to consider the reasons why students go to college and why parents are willing to pay for it.

Factors working in favor of traditional universities are the maturation process students go through in college, plus the campus experiences and student-professor relationships, which can’t easily be replaced by MOOCs, Selingo said.

Factors working against traditional universities include students taking basic courses online for free, credentials granted by MOOCs could soon become just as acceptable as formal degrees and the opportunity for networking — which is a major selling point for colleges — can be done online, Selingo said.

As colleges revert to what he described as the typical playbook when faced with budget cuts — across the board cuts, hiring freezes, cutting programs and reducing student services — other learning platforms can take their place, he said.

During his morning lecture, Selingo didn’t offer many concrete examples colleges could use to stay competitive, but he did offer some advice.

In order to thrive, or just survive, colleges need to convince faculty and staff to buy into change, which is unavoidable and “build the tools, capabilities and behaviors required to drive change on an ongoing basis,” Selingo said.

Interim LSU System President William Jenkins agreed with that concept.

“There is not a single doubt in my mind that this is the way we’re going in the coming years. For the millennial generation, this is going to be the culture,” Jenkins said.

Before ending his remarks, Selingo advised the LSU board on their search to replace John Lombardi, who was fired as president in April.

An LSU presidential search committee chose Dallas-based R. William Funk & Associates to lead the effort to find Lombardi’s replacement shortly before Selingo’s lecture.

“You need somebody committed to change and somebody who has a number of big ideas, not just one,” Selingo told the board.

“And you need people on campus to implement what you want to do.”


LSU calls upon a former president to steer the flagship school through strong winds of change

By Bill Barrow | The Times-Picayune
May 12, 2012

BATON ROUGE -- Over two-and-a-half decades, William Jenkins has held multiple leadership posts in the Louisiana State University System, culminating in an eight-year presidency defined by Hurricane Katrina.

Now the native South African has returned as interim president, replacing the ousted John Lombardi, amid a fiscal storm and a flood of disparate pressures about the identity and structure of a 54,000-student system that includes several academic and research campuses along with the statewide charity hospital system.

The Legislature is debating a budget that will force steep cuts. Construction of a Charity Hospital successor in New Orleans is under way, but the financing isn't settled. Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose appointees control the system governing board, envisions a fundamental remake of the charity model.

LSU main campus Chancellor Michael Martin appears poised to depart for Colorado State University.

Lawmakers moved the University of New Orleans to the University of Louisiana System and could do the same this year with LSU's Shreveport campus.

And a group of wealthy main campus alumni and others have formed the Flagship Coalition with the possible aim of consolidating some LSU units under the main campus and a single chief executive based there.

The Times-Picayune sat down with Jenkins in his office this week to discuss the landscape. Here are the highlights:

T-P: Generally speaking, interim executives are either short-term caretakers, or they serve more extended, action-oriented tenures. Where will you come down?

Jenkins: Clearly, I'm not a candidate for the permanent position. This is an interim position for me. On the other hand, this is a very complex matrix at the moment that we're dealing with. ... Interim? Not a doubt. Am I going to be hands-on and heavily involved in management and change? The answer is without doubt, because of the circumstances.

T-P: Most immediate is the selection of an interim chancellor. What is ahead in that regard?

Jenkins: I can't think or even be fair to speculate on names. Nothing good can come from that. ... As I had to point out long ago, with all the speculation already out there, I'm the one who's going to make that call. You can speculate all you want. I'm going to make that decision. ... There's clearly going to have to be an interim chancellor. The difficulty is that we don't have a president yet. There are very few people who would be candidates for a chancellor position at LSU who wouldn't know who their boss is going to be.

T-P: Have you had the chance to get a handle on the budget, both the mandated cuts for the current year ending June 30 and the next fiscal year?

Jenkins: I met with chancellors (Wednesday) and went over spreadsheets and potential cuts. ... I've dealt with cuts before, but when you're dealing with cuts of this magnitude, they are truly catastrophic. ... We're in touch with budget implications on a daily basis. ... We know one thing, it's going to be difficult, wherever it ends.

T-P: There are a lot of layers to the story of John Lombardi's departure. But it seems clear that tension revolved around what people thought about his priorities within the system and how he balanced the component parts. How do you manage the looming cuts without running into the same parochial battles?

Jenkins: That's going to happen. There is strong regionalization and strong parochialism in Louisiana, but that's probably true in most states. ... The prioritization has to be done in conjunction with the campuses, but it would be unfair to pretend this is all new.

T-P: Is this to the degree that you or campus chancellors will be looking at eliminating whole programs?

Jenkins: I think it's inevitable. I don't see another alternative.

T-P: Would you rather cut a wholesale program -- recognizing that you never get it back -- as a means to protect other enterprises, or do you spread the pain, at risk of widespread mediocrity?

Jenkins: You used the word: If you spread the pain, you are ensuring mediocrity. ... You cannot be fiscally nimble at a university. You can't close a program immediately. You can't stop it after one year. There is a moral and ethical obligation and a legal obligation to fulfill your contract with those students. Even though you might be forced into programmatic closure, you are not going to save all that money overnight.

T-P: Is it fair to say that you cannot approach this kind of budget without your non-tuition-charging units and the medical schools taking the brunt, because the state support is a larger percentage of their operations?

Jenkins: The professional schools are all in that same boat. You can't charge tuition to a level that they can't possibly attend. The medical students' debt is $70,000 or higher than that. Can you suddenly double that? You can see the difficulty. ... Then the non-tuition units, that's your future in so many ways. You have to protect those. Ag is a good example. We have ag research that you can't just stop (because of) the economic consequences for the state.

T-P: Can the questions of the system's structure -- issues that the Flagship Coalition is raising -- be settled in the middle of a presidential search?

Jenkins: Nothing wrong with sharing options and possibilities, but decision points have to be when the new president is in place. And, again, it brings in the worse thing that we deal with, and that is speculation. ... A president has to be in place and a board has to be in agreement before that proceeds.

T-P: With powerful, wealthy members, the Flagship Coalition operates from its own power base, but they have no formal power within the institution. Is that at all problematic moving forward?

Jenkins: We are a public institution. This is not a private institution. This has to be done through the board and through the institution. I don't think this could be readily imposed externally.

T-P: When you said you'd be an active interim president, did you mean these questions of organization and structure?

Jenkins: Yeah. I may not be the implementer. Running a university is like turning a battleship. We are not nimble by nature. That's not judgmental about LSU; that's a statement about universities, the nature of the academy. But to air these questions and to discuss and to strategize would be very appropriate. I'd like to see that happen. That's healthy.

T-P: Do you want to see LSU maintain control of its medical enterprises, including the hospitals?

Jenkins: You have to have collaboration and control with the hospitals. ... Sometimes that (university ownership) model works very well. Sometimes you have independent hospitals. ... You've got to have a close relationship, at worst, but very often an even closer relationship between your medical school and hospitals. That's what we had at Big Charity.

T-P: The governor hasn't said this explicitly, but his actions and philosophy suggest that he prefers to move in a fundamentally different direction on health care delivery.

Jenkins: That's national. That's privatization. I keep raising the question: Who is going to look after the indigent in this state? ... There has to be some safety net for it to work. A great nation like the United States cannot let its poor and indigent die in the streets. So there has to be a public hospital component.

T-P: Is your impression that the LSU board, or a working majority, feels the same way, or are they more on the governor's track?

Jenkins: I don't want to give the impression that the governor and I are at odds on this. But however this is done, the public medical schools have to have access to hospitals, and there has to be a modicum of control and a firm relationship.

T-P: The university having some kind of control over the hospitals, you mean?

Jenkins: Yes. Again, I'm not saying we're out there demanding that the current model stay as it is. But that has to be carefully thought through. No one really knows what's best. It's all an experiment.