LSU president finalist meets with students, staff
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The man expected to be the next president of the LSU system defended the closed-door search that chose him and pledged Thursday to work closely with university faculty despite their criticism of his higher education credentials.
F. King Alexander, the lone finalist for the LSU job, spoke publicly for the first time since he was announced by university officials earlier this week.
Alexander, president of California State University Long Beach, attended forums with LSU staff and students and planned a Friday meeting with faculty.
The public visit to Baton Rouge came after the LSU Faculty Senate questioned Alexander’s qualifications to be the next system president and chancellor of the flagship campus and registered a vote of no-confidence in the LSU Board of Supervisors and its search process.
Alexander said he doesn’t expect the no-confidence resolution to affect his relationship with the university system’s professors. He said he’s worked with his current faculty very well and has their respect.
“I’m here to work with the faculty. I’ve always done that,” he said. “I believe in our faculty. I’m here to listen to them, to address their concerns, to tackle any problems that they have with them, in essence to provide the best possible environment for their instruction and teaching, their research.”
LSU Board of Supervisors Chairman Hank Danos said he expects the governing board to approve Alexander’s hiring next week. When he showed up at public forums Thursday, Alexander already had an LSU pin attached to his jacket lapel.
The Oxford-educated Alexander, 49, has led Cal State Long Beach since 2006. Before that, he was president of Murray State University in Kentucky. He’s also held positions at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana; University of Wisconsin, Madison; and University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
At LSU, Alexander would be in charge of a multibillion-dollar system of four university campuses, a law school and medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport.
Among LSU faculty complaints were the closed-door handling of the presidential search, a continuing criticism from faculty leaders that the LSU board is too secretive.
The presidential search committee, made up of mainly Board of Supervisors members, didn’t interview candidates publicly and only forwarded Alexander’s name to the full board. The committee has refused to list any other people who were interviewed since the search began in November.
Alexander defended the process, saying it’s not uncommon for higher education leadership searches to be done that way so sitting chancellors and presidents can be considered without worrying about their current positions.
Of the LSU search, he said, “I would not have done it if the confidentiality was not in place.”
He said he didn’t apply for the LSU System president position, but was contacted by the university’s search firm and was told he was recommended for consideration. That started the interview process.
The Faculty Senate also questioned whether Alexander’s background is an appropriate match for the LSU job. For example, its resolution noted graduation rates at Cal State Long Beach are lower than those at LSU and the school hasn’t reached the doctorate-granting level that LSU’s flagship campus has achieved.
Alexander said graduation rates at his current university are the highest they’ve ever been, and he said his work has been lauded by the White House.
By MELINDA DESLATTE