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LSU Faculty Senate votes 'no confidence' in board

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 10:35 PM

BATON ROUGE (AP) — LSU professors are questioning the credentials of the contender to be university system president, and delivered notice Wednesday of a stinging vote of no confidence in the governing board.

Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope said the group unanimously agreed to the resolution saying LSU's educators have no faith in the Board of Supervisors to make appropriate leadership and budget decisions for the system.

The resolution also raises concerns about F. King Alexander, president of California State University Long Beach and the finalist to be LSU's next system president and chancellor of the flagship campus in Baton Rouge.

"A vote of no confidence is the most severe sanction that a faculty governance body can deliver," Cope said in an email. "Such votes are extremely rare in higher education."

Cope said the resolution was given to the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, a day after it was approved by the Faculty Senate. Although it conveys the faculty's disapproval, the no-confidence vote can't force any changes in board policy or decisions.

It comes as Alexander planned to hold public forums Thursday and Friday with faculty, staff and students and to speak with media for the first time since he became the presumed next leader of LSU.

"Any skeptics who exist out there, he'll easily win them over because he's the right man for the job at this time," Board Chairman Hank Danos said.

Among faculty complaints are the closed-door handling of the presidential search, a continuing criticism from faculty leaders that the LSU board is too secretive, is violating open meetings laws and is improperly handling a system-wide reorganization.

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.

Blake Chatelain, chairman of the search committee and an LSU board member, defended the search process when he announced its support of Alexander earlier this week. Chatelain said most leading candidates won't agree to be considered if they will be named publicly during an interview process. He said other states use similar closed-door procedures.

"If we want candidates who are sitting presidents and sitting chancellors to apply, the reality of the marketplace is you have to do these things on a closed basis," he said Wednesday.

In its vote of no confidence, the Faculty Senate questions whether Alexander's background is an appropriate match for the LSU job.

The resolution notes 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. It also raises concerns about Alexander's teaching experience.

LSU's aspirations "to be recognized as one of the top research universities in the U.S. are inconsistent with the proposing by the LSU Board of Supervisors of a nominee for President-Chancellor who has never been a tenured full professor at a major research university," the resolution says.

Danos said he expects the board to approve Alexander's hiring.

"I have no concerns about his background," he said. "He's demonstrated to the search committee that he has what it takes, if you will, to help transform LSU to the kind of university that we want to be and where we need to be."

The LSU Board of Supervisors will vote on Alexander's hiring at a special meeting March 27. If approved, 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.

Alexander, 49, has led Cal State Long Beach since 2006. Before that, he was president of Murray State University in Kentucky from 2001 to 2006. He's also held positions at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana; University of Wisconsin, Madison; and University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

His degrees are in political science and comparative education policy.

John Lombardi was fired as LSU System president after he clashed with Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration over higher education policy and budget cuts. LSU Chancellor Mike Martin left the Baton Rouge campus to lead the Colorado State University System.

The board then voted to merge the two jobs as part of a system-wide restructuring. William Jenkins is serving as interim president and chancellor until a permanent successor is chosen.

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