It is important that the facts be addressed regarding the hiring of Thomas Skinner as LSU’s general counsel.
Skinner was selected following an intense search that drew candidates from across the country. Each meeting of the search committee was announced as required by law via public notices to allow ample opportunity for the public or press to scrutinize the process. No representative of The Advocate inquired about the process or attended these sessions.
A search committee, assisted by LSU staff, reviewed a large number of applications, vetted résumés, interviewed a significant number and selected finalists for the president, board, employees and supporters to interview. At no time did the president, a board member or any elected official seek to influence the selection.
Skinner answered an advertisement on the electronic “job board” of the National Association of College and University Attorneys. No one made a call on his behalf, and he made no attempt to utilize any contacts to receive special treatment. His application was treated exactly the same as others.
The majority of the candidates exceeding the minimum required qualifications weren’t practicing law in Louisiana. Due to Louisiana’s unique legal requirements, we realized we might be selecting someone who would need to apply for limited admission to the bar as corporate counsel. Two Louisiana attorneys reviewed the matter and gave the opinion that the university qualified to seek limited admission status.
Contrary to James Gill’s column, the LSU Board is considered a “body corporate” and the general counsel serves that board. Still, a modest level of research would have avoided his misstatement. A number of corporate general counsels in Louisiana have limited admission to the bar because they come from other states with no intention of practicing law except for their employer. Skinner’s situation is not unique or unusual.
LSU has hired a distinguished graduate of one of the nation’s best law schools, an esteemed senior partner at one of the country’s most elite law firms and someone with a successful career in public service. That individual has a commitment to higher education and decided to invest in LSU by accepting a major decrease in income. LSU is honored to have him. Like Gill, Skinner was not fortunate enough to be born in Louisiana, but he too should be allowed to enjoy our wonderful state and contribute his skills free of false attacks.
LSU needs talented and committed people to help stave off crippling budgetary cuts. We would hope that publications like The Advocate recognize LSU’s importance through its service to the state. False claims are a diversion. LSU needs people like Skinner, and Louisiana needs LSU.
We realize Gill is not an expert on employment or higher education, so his inaccuracies, while vexing, can perhaps be understood. What I cannot forgive is his lack of fairness. He used a “back-handed” attack through a nuanced claim that it was Skinner’s family connections that led to his selection. That is simply not true.
associate vice chancellor, human resource management