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Embattled UMass chancellor could be next in line for top LSU job

The embattled chancellor of the University
of Massachusetts flagship campus is
a finalist for the top job at Louisiana
State University,
according to a person familiar with LSU’s presidential search.

John Lombardi has interviewed for the job at least twice
since UMass announced in May that he would be stepping down as chancellor of
the Amherst campus at the end of the coming school year, said the person, who
declined to speak publicly because of the secret nature of the search.

Lombardi may be formally recommended to LSU’s board of
supervisors this Friday. A vote on a new president could come a week later.

LSU officials said they were not allowed to confirm any of
the candidates to lead the LSU system, which operates five academic campuses,
10 public hospitals and 36 health care clinics on a $3 billion annual budget.

But Charles Zewe, LSU’s vice president for communications,
said Lombardi would be a good fit for the system.

“Someone with John Lombardi’s academic background and
expertise in managing American research universities is attractive to
LSU,” he said.

News of Lombardi’s departure touched off a storm of
controversy on the Amherst campus,
with his supporters saying he is being ousted by the five-campus system’s president
Jack Wilson and the board of trustees.

“We have no official word from the chancellor about his
potential plans,” said Robert Connolly, a spokesman for Wilson.
“Until there’s official word, we’ll be watching and assessing.”

Lombardi, who was president of the University
of Florida in the 1990s, has
remained publicly silent about his leaving UMass and did not respond to an
e-mail sent to him on Tuesday. UMass-Amherst spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said the
chancellor is on vacation and will not comment on LSU’s search for a president.

“The process is in the hands of LSU,” Blaguszewski

At UMass, Lombardi was lauded by many as a strong fundraiser
and forceful advocate who has helped bolster the standing of the Amherst
campus as an important research center since he was hired five years ago.

But some trustees said he was a stubborn, combative leader
who did not want to go along with plans to streamline the five-campus system.

And that attitude conflicted with UMass president Jack
Wilson’s idea of trying to integrate the campuses and get them to share more

Wilson has said
he and Lombardi “mutually agreed” the chancellor would step down at
the end of the next school year, take a one-year sabbatical, then return to the
campus as a professor. But some have referred to Lombardi’s departure as a
“palace coup.”

– Associated Press

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