Moving Toward A New Era
University of Louisiana System’s incoming president seeks to get Grambling State back on track
BY GARRY BOULARD
The incoming president of the University of Louisiana System, Dr. Sally Clausen, says getting historically Black Grambling State University back on track is at the top of her priority list.
The university has long been plagued by a declining enrollment, instability created by a succession of five presidencies in almost 10 years and messy financial records.
Clausen acknowledges that Grambling’s challenges are many and that primary among them may be the morale of the students, faculty and staff. However, she, along with Grambling’s acting president Dr. Neari F. Warner, believe most of the university’s current problems have answers and that the school’s best days still lie ahead.
“I have faith in Grambling as an important and unique part of our overall system,” adds Clausen who, since l995, has been the president of Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, one of the eight schools — including Grambling — that constitute the University of Louisiana System. “Dr. Warner and I have a very good working relationship, so I think that together we are going to push the school into a new era.”
Warner, who previously served as Grambling’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, was named acting president in January following the sudden departure of Dr. Steven Favors. Favors’ quick exit in early January marked the end of Grambling’s fifth presidency in the last nine years. That exit came after Louisiana legislative auditor Dan Kyle declared that because of a large number of inaccuracies and a lack of internal controls, the school’s books could not be properly audited. It was the third time in as many years that Kyle said Grambling’s records were too messy to audit (see Black Issues, Jan. 18). That decision, in turn, prompted the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to withdraw its previous 10-year reaffirmation of Grambling’s accreditation.
“We have never had a problem with anyone being dishonest or doing anything unethical,” says Warner. “But we have very much had technical problems combined with a degree of personnel problems that have just made the job of making Grambling work efficiently very difficult.
“But I am hopeful, I really am,” says Warner. “It is just a matter of addressing the weak points in our system and making them more accountable.”
Because a possible loss of accreditation has emerged as a major issue of concern for Grambling, Warner and Clausen want to see the auditing problems that led to SACS’ decision straightened out.
“This, really, has been the number one priority for us in the past few months,” says Warner. “We have talked with literally every one of the people who, no matter how small their role is, have something to do with the fiscal affairs of this school. We’ve gone over what their jobs are and how they can be more efficient, while correcting past problems.”
A team of SACS auditors, as well as auditors from the state’s legislative auditor’s office visited Grambling recently.
“We are hopeful that we are on the right track. We are scheduled for reaffirmation, and I see no reason now why that may not happen,” says Warner.
Yet for all of Clausen’s confidence that Grambling, under the leadership of Warner, may return to its former status, she says she regards seriously the comments from students, many of whom have said the last chaotic decade at Grambling has shaken their faith in the school. They are concerned that the school’s troubles will deflate its overall reputation.
“I can appreciate how students who are there at this moment in time and are reading what the press may be saying must feel,” Clausen says. “It is only natural that they would be concerned.”
But, Clausen adds, “It is my intention and it is the board’s intention to help President Warner resolve all of these many issues that are currently facing Grambling so that by the time the next students graduate or current graduates have entered the work force, a lot of this will be history.”
Warner agrees. “We are already getting the support of the students because they see we are doing positive things. They want to give Grambling a chance because they believe in this institution. And so do I.”
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