Southern University has revived its stalled search for a new leader — kick-starting the process this month under a tweaked organizational structure.
Officials expressed optimism at the new search committee’s first meeting: They will find the right leader, despite the financial struggles the historically black university system has faced in recent years. They are looking for someone to serve as president and chancellor, now that the board has merged the jobs.
“There’s no lack of interest,” search committee Chairman Albert Sam said in a recent meeting. “This is a historic position for Southern University.”
If the applications received before the earlier search was placed on hold are an indicator, he could be right.
Over the short span since the initial fast-tracked process began, several more people have voiced interest in leading Southern University. The Advocate obtained nominations and applications through an open records request.
They include sitting and former university administrators, business leaders and others. Victor Ukpolo, the chancellor of Southern University New Orleans, also expressed interest in the job.
The SU system oversees campuses in Baton Rouge, Shreveport and New Orleans, in addition to a law school and agriculture center.
At least 10 people submitted complete applications for the job the first time around.
Nine others were nominated. Several of them appeared to show interest in the position, based on correspondence with the system after they were notified they were nominated.
The applicants include former Grambling Vice President Paul Bryant, who now works for Virginia College; Mercer University Law School Dean Oren Griffin, who is a New Orleans native; former Savannah State University President Earl G. Yarbrough Sr.; and Timothy Wilson, a defense expert and pilot who served in the military overseas.
Others who submitted their names for the job include John H. Parker, past president of Brown Mackie College in Oklahoma; Bobby Joe Saucer, a Southern University grad and pastor; Keith E. Sylvester, a construction professor at the University of Southern Mississippi; and Derrick Brown, whose bio identifies him as an author, songwriter and business consultant, among other jobs.
At least two of those nominated by others already have said they aren’t interested in the job. Others did not appear to respond to the nomination notification.
Leonard Haynes, a Southern alum and former executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, didn’t submit an application, but he inquired about the delay in the search and when it would be back on track.
Similarly, Ivory Toldson, an LSU graduate whom President Barack Obama appointed as deputy director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, also was notified of his nomination and replied asking about the search delay.
Last fall, the governor-appointed board that oversees Southern University voted not to extend current system President Ronald Mason’s contract, which expires June 30. Mason continues to lead efforts that include preparing for the legislative session and the threat of deep cuts to higher education but has been a polarizing figure for Southern in recent years. At least one board member and the Faculty Senate have called for his resignation. Some of his detractors have suggested he be placed on administrative leave if a new leader is found before his contract expires.
The Baton Rouge campus has been without a permanent chancellor since the ouster of James Llorens last year. Leaders say they are still working out the specifics on how the new dual role will operate day to day.
As president, Mason is paid $374,000 a year, plus an annual $16,000 vehicle allowance and $36,000 yearly housing allowance. The next president likely would receive a similar compensation package. Consolidating positions has been touted as a cost-cutting measure.