Five of the six remaining candidates to run the Southern University Law Center have deep connections with the school.
The 14-member committee vetting aspirants to become the new chancellor of Southern’s law school trimmed the list of contenders Tuesday after meeting for 90 minutes behind closed doors. The panel is led by Law Center alumnus Dwayne Murray.
Joan Bullock, an associate dean of affairs at Florida A&M University College of Law, was the only semifinalist from outside the Southern community. The other five candidates still in contention are Preston Castille Jr., the Southern University Alumni Federation president; John Michael Guidry, a 1st Circuit Court of Appeal judge who received his juris doctorate at the law center in 1987 and has taught classes there; Russell Jones and Roederick C. White Sr., both vice chancellors at the Law Center; and John Pierre, who is the interim Law Center chancellor.
Southern University President and Chancellor Ray Belton said he expects the new law school chancellor could be selected at the Board of Supervisors meeting in March.
The six semifinalists will be invited to the campus later this month to meet with students, faculty and committee members. The field then will be narrowed to three finalists.
Pierre, previously a vice chancellor, was selected as interim last year after Chancellor Freddie Pitcher stepped down from the position in June to join the faculty.
He had a lot of support from students attending the meeting but not as much from the faculty.
Two law students spoke before the committee, expressing their support of the interim chancellor and asking that student input be given heavy consideration in the selection process.
There are about 600 students enrolled at the Law Center this semester.
“He listens to students, and he listens proactively,” said first-year law student Fatima Mann of Pierre. “He knows all of our names, and he recruited most of us himself.”
Third-year law student J.A. Montgomery said Pierre has set a positive tone for the school moving forward and earned the trust of the students.
“Whenever I talk to people about what goes on with the chancellor and what to expect from the chancellor, they always talk about how he’s helped them along the way with their professional and academic careers,” he said. “I’m looking at what’s best for the school, not a political decision.”
Members of the Law Center faculty also participated in an informal poll of the candidates to illustrate their top choices. Faculty members were asked to give a point to their top four choices.
The top pick among the faculty, with 11 votes, was Bullock, the outsider from Florida A&M who attended law school in Ohio.
Jones picked up nine votes, coming in second place. Guidry, Castille and White tied for third with eight votes.
Faculty were apparently less enthusiastic about Pierre than the students. They gave him just five votes.
Across the state, the Southern University Shreveport campus also is narrowing its search to replace former Chancellor Belton, who rose to lead the full system in June.
The three candidates advancing are Rodney Ellis, a higher education consultant and former chancellor of Central Louisiana Technical and Community College in Alexandria; Johnny Moore, vice president of student and outreach services at Northeast Texas Community College; and Boyce Williams, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance of Learning Inc. Those candidates will be interviewed at their Feb. 19 meeting in Shreveport.
The three applicants cut from the list Tuesday scored lower than Pierre. The three eliminated candidates are Monique Edwards, general counsel for Family First Medical Clinic and an adjunct professor at the Law Center; Alexander Daniel Hamilton VI, a Washington-based lawyer and higher education consultant; and Jay Robinson, a Dallas municipal judge.
Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter @rebekahallen.