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Help Wanted: New President
By Michael Cossey - The Pow Wow - August 31, 2001
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Dear Presidential Search Team,

I understand that you have what some would call a daunting task sitting before you – the job of finding a replacement for University of Louisiana at Monroe President Lawson Swearingen. The eyes of a region and of a state are upon you. I have faith you will do a fine job. However, as a student of this university, and as a concerned taxpayer of this state, I would like to make a few suggestions (in no particular order) for your upcoming search.

Conduct a national search. I am sure there are a few folks in the state that could run this university. However, Andre Coudrain, chairman of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, has said that he wants to remove politics from the search process. If a local boy (or girl) gets the job, it will be hard for some to look past the possibility of a political pay-off.

Another perk of looking outside our borders for a president is we will greatly reduce the chance of our problems continuing under Swearingen’s replacement. Look back on a couple of the previous searches to fill other ULM administrative positions. You’ll see it’s often tempting to hire from within. If we are unhappy with the current state of affairs at ULM, we certainly do not want to maintain the status quo by hiring someone that is part of the problem.

Look for experience. Although I’ve never been a university president, I would imagine that the job is pretty tough. It’s not exactly the sort of position where you learn on the job. “No experience necessary” is not something we need to see when you advertise for candidates.

We need knowledge where it counts. Our university’s next president should be someone who is highly regarded in either the field of education or business. (Note that the fields of politics or law are not included). We need a person who can lead our educational endeavors or someone who can manage our finances. It would be advisable that the new president’s second-in-command be proficient in whatever the president isn’t.

Return the president to campus. What would a city think of a mayor that did not live within his or her city limits? What would a nation think of a president that resided in another country? The answer to both question, of course, is, “not much.” So, what are we supposed to think of a university president that doesn’t live on campus? ULM’s next president needs to live with the people he or she serves. (Looking for a place to put the new president? Try Olin Hall. I hear there is plenty of room.)

Find someone who isn’t spinning. There is no way I can put into words the amount of distrust many students, faculty and community members have in this university. It seems that university administrators feel the need to put a positive spin on every story about the school. Sometimes it’s hard to know where the truth ends and the spin begins.

I know of a graduate student who needed figures on the dormitory population at ULM for a school project. University administrators gave him the typical runaround and were reluctant to hand over what was public information because they knew the information would cast the university in a negative light. As the Bible says, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” This student was looking to complete an assignment – not an expose’ on the decreasing number of students on campus – yet the school never let down its “negative publicity” guard. This must stop under the leadership of our next president.

I’m sure that you guys will get many suggestions from many different folks. However, I encourage you to especially listen to the students of this university. We are the ones commuting between home, school and work. We are the ones that live in ULM’s aging dorms. We are the life of this campus. I’m not saying this because I am a student. I’m saying it because there are thousands out there just like myself – people who hope that decision you make will help turn this university around. So don’t forget about the little people. Now is the time to rebuild the University of Louisiana at Monroe and we’re all in this together.

Michael Cossey is a Monticello, Ark. RTVF senior and editor of The Pow Wow’s online edition.


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