Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bill Crawford: University President terms grow shorter

Jackson State University President Carolyn Meyers becomes the latest university president to leave prematurely. She announced her resignation following disclosure of financial problems at the university.

Once university presidents seemed to hold office forever. As a new Kirk Fordice appointee to the IHL Board in 1992, I was awed by the tenure of Walter Washington, 25 years as president at Alcorn State University, Kent Wyatt, 24 years at Delta State University, and Aubrey Lucas, 21 years at the University of Southern Mississippi after four years at Delta State.

Their tenures as presidents were not uncommon. Jacob Reddix served 27 years at Jackson State University, Charles Hogarth 25 years at Mississippi University for Women, John Davis Williams 22 years at the University of Mississippi, and James Herbert White 21 years at Mississippi Valley State University.

When these stalwarts began to retire, presidential tenures started to decline. Robert Khayat served 14 years at Ole Miss, Don Zacharias 12 years at MSU, Clyda Rent 12 years at MUW, Clinton Bristow 11 years at ASU, William Sutton 10 years at MVSU, Ron Mason 10 years at JSU, and John Hilpert 10 years at DSU.

Meyers made it almost six years at JSU as did Dan Jones at Ole Miss. Other recent terms were shorter, Chris Brown and George Ross two years at ASU; Robert Foglesong two years at MSU; David Potter three years at DSU; Charles Lee four years at MSU and Horace Fleming four years at USM; and Martha Saunders and Shelby Thames five years at USM.

For the most part, the shorter the tenure the more issues with the performance of the president.

What happened? No one thing, but a confluence of things. The presidents’ jobs got more complex and demanding, particularly as fund-raising, political maneuvering, schmoozing, and board involvement became 24/7 demands.

In the old days, presidents were like kings with minimum board oversight. The whispered maxim of the extraordinary Walter Washington was “my way or the highway.” As society became more egalitarian, authoritarian leadership became less acceptable to faculty, students, and alumni. The IHL Board began to seek other qualities in candidates.

At the same time, governors began appointing more diverse individuals, some with agendas, to the board, making the board less like-minded about candidates.

National search firms became entrenched. Even in cases where strong internal candidates existed, search firms were hired to give the appearance seeking the best candidate. The board began to rely on these firms for recruitment, vetting, and ranking candidates. Presidential resumes became more important. What happened was search firms would attract excellent resumes but not always terrific candidates.

Then there was the growing influence of donors, alumni, faculty, and politicians as presidential search committees became more representative of different interests and more involved in the board’s selection process. Their favorites were not always the best choices.

Finally, it’s just hard to pick good presidents and even harder to be a good president over time.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on JSU’s search.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (


Anonymous said...

It is simple. Now firms are doing the hiring. They are paid for that service. If a person spends 20 years in a job that means they are not going to get any more money from that customer for 20 years. If the person they find lasts 2-3 years they will get paid to do the job again in 2-3 years.
Plus. Now a college has to pay their coaches much more, give free schooling to sports players, provide money to players and their families. That along with providing a staff for everyone above teacher level cost a lot.
If a college would get back to doing their original job, educating the kids, the presidents would last a long time.

Not Bad Gigs If You Can Get One.. said...

At one time it was said that the best job a man could have in State employment was the president of a junior college. That still may be true. Seems the only ones to fall are those that are forgetting which credit card to use, the rare exception being the Holmes president who just got a nice promotion within the system. These jobs are lifetime appointments it seems. And there is rampant nepotism on Junior/Community college campi not to mention half the upper level staff living in tax-payer provided housing. Why the hell should we pay for their housing?

Since Kent Wyatt was mentioned in the story, I will say I have wondered since his appointment/coronation at Delta State College what it was that qualified him to lead a university. Other than his daddy being a long time coach at Delta State and the family being well-connected politically at the local level in Cleveland (and, thus, the legislature), why was he chosen to rise to that level? Of course ophthalmologist Stacy Davidson was a close family friend and was on the 'college board'.

It seems that we often jump into the pool of disaster with some of these appointments. The prior two at Southern Miss are examples of that and Mrs Rent was always embroiled in controversy at MUW. Then there's Jones and his notions of redefining Ole Miss (with the guidance of Khayat). Then there was Lucas' daughter, who had the hyphenated last names until her divorce, who quit the Millsaps job (although not a state supported school). And the upstanding Baptist President over at MC (private) who later revealed his lecherous and thieving behavior by absconding with school funds he spent at whore-houses. And there's the revolving doors at the HBCU campi.

So....these people who we at one time viewed as 'above the fray' and 'men among men' are not at all what we assumed them to be in so many cases.

But, at the Junior/Community College level, you can keep that job for decades, until you die in your chair, unless your really screw up. And we muddle along dreaming of 'term limits' for political office holders.

Anonymous said...

Who cares. No employer takes a degree from JSU seriously. Unless it's some northern corporation who is under government mandate to hire a certain number of 'minorities', aka global majority.

Anonymous said...

I have to say the 3 posters above have enlightened a lot of us who are not "in the know" about some of these issues. Having read this may open up a whole can of worms. I agree with the 2nd poster on the point as to why we have to furnish housing to the upper staff at the community colleges. It just doesn't make good sense. And I'm very sure after peeling back the skin covering a lot of these unknown facts then maybe we can eliminate some of the waste that is occurring. Those are some very good points you all hit on.

Anonymous said...

Would you hire anyone from JSU School of Engineering knowing your Error and Ommissions Insurance Policy would have to cover a loss for anything your engineering firm has designed using one of these engineers when you can employ an engineer from MSU?

Anonymous said...

President of Holmes Jr. College forever was Mr. Frank Branch along with his wife who served as a First Lady. This country le served with distinction and honor. And Mr. Frank's door was always open to students.

Anonymous said...

I remember when the Finance Managers at Holmes and Delta State and MDJC all lived in on campus housing provided by the taxpayer. What the hell is up with that. They probably still do and it's probably the same on every campus.

Anonymous said...

1:03 In certain quarters of this country NO degree from Mississippi is taken seriously. They think you and any graduate of UM, MSU, USM, and yes JSU are all a bunch of ignorant hicks who go barefoot and eat grits three times a day. Until you prove them wrong!

Anonymous said...

What the fig is wrong with 'grits three times a day'. Errybody want to stay reg'lar.

Anonymous said...

The community college districts are controlled by separate boards of trustees. While there is a state community college board, it's purpose is to serve as a coordinating agency for the 14 community colleges and one junior college (Jones).

The board of supervisors in each county of the community college district makes the trustee appointments, because the counties provide funds toward the operation of the college. In some cases, the local elected superintendent of education is on the community college board of trustees, while other appointees are alums or otherwise well-connected politically in their counties.

I read where Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit just dedicated a new men's dorm and named it after two trustees who served over 50 years. FIFTY years? Presumably the county supervisors (in this case, Pike and Walthall counties) kept reappointing them to the Southwest board.

The community college network in this state is powerful but that power can be traced to each college's board of trustees and back to the county boards of supervisors.

Da Fat Man said...

Dr. Clinton Bristow died suddenly. He was the reason for the improvements of academics and the graduation rate at ASU. Ross's tenure was just a stop over for a position at larger university and Brown caused money issues. Bristow used the Ayers money well and the student body is much more diverse than it ever was. He wanted Alcorn to known as the "Academic Resort" instead of the Reservation. Some people would ridicule the academic resort saying it is an oxymoron, but it was the spirit of the title he was trying to promote scholarship instead of just the athletics and extra curricular activities.

Not Bad Gigs If You Can Get One.. said...

As was said early, the Junior/Community College President's job is the best in State jobs. Supervisors come and go and run for reelection every four years. JC Presidents and Finance Deans are lifetime jobs with paid housing unless you rob the coke machine and get caught. Or charge personal tires to the school credit card.

Fred Muse has just completed his 80th year at the helm I believe. He still has the 1936 Plymouth the Board gave him when he was hired at $2100 a year.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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