The Southern University System board plans to discuss next month how to proceed with its search for a new leader, including whether to merge its system president and Baton Rouge chancellor positions.

Southern leaders had started and abruptly stopped a search for a new president late last year. This week, Gov. Bobby Jindal named five new members to the system board, paving the way for the process to start again.

“I suspect, really, it will pick up where we left off,” board chairman Leon Tarver said during a meeting Friday.

Board member Tony Clayton said it was important to have the new board members before moving forward.

The new appointees are Curman Gaines, of Alexandria; Donald Ray Henry, of Donaldsonville; Richard Hilliard, of Shreveport; Pat Magee, of Lafayette; and Dr. Rani Whitfield, of Baton Rouge.

The presidential search process has held up searches for three new chancellors. Board members have said they want to have a new president before finding new leaders for the Baton Rouge campus, law school and agricultural unit.

The Legislature starts this year’s session on April 13, and cuts to higher education are expected in the coming year.

The old board voted 9-4 against extending President Ronald Mason Jr.’s contract beyond its June 30 expiration date.

The board hasn’t formally taken a position on a proposed merger of the president and chancellor roles.

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