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Louisiana’s Historically Black University System Nearing Selection of New Leader

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Southern University System has an initial pool of 13 applicants seeking to become the next system president.

The Southern president search committee co-chairmen said they plan to narrow that list this week with the aid of the DHR International search firm of Chicago.

Interviews will begin this month, they said.

Committee Co-Chairman Domoine Rutledge said there are a few “exciting” potential candidates who also could join the list, although he refused to give any names.

“It’s a good pool as far as I’m concerned,” said Rutledge, president of the Southern University Alumni Federation. “Obviously, there are some who are better than others.”

The goal is to select a new president in mid-April.

The Southern University System oversees three academic campuses, a law school and an agricultural center. The Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, the Southern University at New Orleans, and the Southern University Law Center were founded as historically Black institutions. The group of institutions comprising Southern University is considered the only historically Black university system in the U.S.   

The applicants are vying to replace former President Ralph Slaughter, whose contract ended in June and remains in litigation with Southern.

Dr. Kassie Freeman, who has not applied, is serving as interim president.

The new applicants are:

Dr. Belinda Childress Anderson, former Virginia Union University president in Richmond, Va. She resigned in June.

Dr. Mohammad Bhuiyan, director of the Fayetteville State University Center for Entrepreneurship in North Carolina.

Dr. Robert Jennings, former Alabama A&M University president in Normal, Ala. He stepped down in 2008.

Gerald “Jerry” Jensen, CEO of the Siskin Children’s Institute in Chattanooga, Tenn. He is a Southern law graduate.

Dr. Carolyn Meyers, Norfolk State University president in Virginia. She is leaving Norfolk at the end of June.

Kenneth Reeves, business executive and former assistant director of the Texas A&M University 12th Man Foundation.

Dr. Kevin Stephens Sr., New Orleans Health Department director. He is a Southern and LSU graduate.

The previous nominees and applicants in the pool are Adesoji “Soji” Adelaja, director of the Michigan State University Land Policy Institute in East Lansing, Mich.; Dr. Charles Green, former Bermuda College president; Dr. Leonard Haynes III, U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education senior adviser; Dr. Roosevelt Newson, former Bowie State University provost in Maryland; Dr. Karl Wright, former Florida Memorial University president in Miami; and Dr. Marvin Yates, Southeastern Louisiana University vice president for student affairs.

Yates was the chancellor of Southern’s main campus from 1991 to 1997.

Haynes was a Southern executive vice president in the 1980s. He also served as interim president at Grambling State University in 1997 and 1998. Haynes was a finalist for the Southern presidency in 1985 and 1996.

Search committee member and Southern Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi said he is open to seeing a new president without the traditional academic experience, especially because of state budget cuts to colleges.

“I would be inclined to look at someone outside of the box,” Trivedi said. “We need someone who can raise money.”

Committee members are in the process of scoring the 13 applicants with an evaluation grid that includes rating management experience at historically Black colleges, fundraising skills, governmental relations skills, budgetary management experience and more.

“We are on a very aggressive timeline,” said Robert Clayton, DHR executive vice president.

The search committee’s goal is to recommend three finalists to the Southern Board of Supervisors near the end of March.

Much of Thursday’s committee meeting focused on discussing the experience of the pool of candidates, including explanations on how several of the applicants resigned from or were forced to leave some jobs.

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