Gramblinites speak out on presidential search

Russell LeDay is pictured speaking during Friday’s ULS Board Meeting on the Grambling State University campus.

As part of Friday’s University of Louisiana System Board meeting inside the auditorium of Grambling State University’s Nursing Building, those in attendance were not only informed of the process that will be used to select a new president for GSU but were also offered a chance to give their input concerning the procedure.

But before those at the meeting were given a chance to speak, outgoing GSU President Gallot, who will replace Dr. James Henderson as ULS System president on Jan. 1, said that he feels whoever is selected as his replacement as GSU president will be positioned for success as soon as taking office.

Russell LeDay, a Grambling State graduate and GSU’s current Director of Advancement was the first audience member to take his turn at the microphone.

“We were successful with our last president (Gallot) and we don’t need to go backwards,” LeDay said. “We need to make certain that we bring in a leader that’s going to enhance us and move us and move us to the next level and even higher,” Leday said. 

LeDay then suggested some characteristics he feels Grambling State’s next president will need.

“One, they should be an innovative leader,” Leday said. “Now is truly the time to think outside of the box. The need to be student-centered. If they’re not focused on the students, then why are they here? They need to be athletic-friendly. Stop fooling ourselves. Grambling State is an athletic institution. And they should be community-oriented. We have to work together. The town and gown situation is very important.

“They should have HBCU experience. We have to understand the culture, and if we bring in a leader that doesn’t understand the culture, it’s going to be a difficult situation. They should have a strong desire to enhance our academic offerings. If we’re not allowing students to learn what the environment of the world is looking for, Then that’s not going to help us. And finally, we need someone that’s going to focus on campus beautification. You look good, you feel good, you do good.”

GSU Department of History Chair Edward Holt said his hopes are that a new president is faculty-centered as well as student-centered.

“The faculty are going to be the ones shaping that product — those students who are going to go out and be the future of the workforce, so we need somebody that is not looking to come in and streamline faculty but rather looking to enhance the faculty that is here and make sure we have a faculty that is robust and able to and do the work and mission of not only Grambling State University but the ULS System,” Holt said.

“There’s been national conversations about ‘right-sizing’ faculties and my comment about it is that if you do have faculty at an institution then you don’t have anyone to educate the students. So to keep that mind, even though we have budgets to concern, even though we have a wide variety of operations at the university, I think my idea of faculty-center is keeping people here who want to help the students, of being able to provide professional development and to allow the faculty to achieve in the same way that we can hope can be modeled and presented on to the students.”

Faculty Senate President Gary Poe from Grambling State’s Department of Business then pointed out that the university’s faculty and staff are “Significantly” underpaid on an average “quite a bit” less the salaries of other regional institutions and asked Holt how that made GSU faculty members feel.about retention and motivation of the university’s faculty.

Holt took a bipartisan safe route with his answer while discretely trying to make his point.

“I would HBCUs — we have always done more with less,” Holt said. “But could you imagine how much more we could do if we were at parity with our sister institutions?”

Poe then asked if Holt feels it should be a priority of GSU’s new president to bring GSU salaries up to regional averages.

And Holt responded with the same answer again.

“Could you imagine how much more we could do if we were at parity with those averages,” Holt said before walking away from the microphone.

As GSU Ezzard Burton had done earlier during the public comment portion of Friday’s meeting, GSU student Elenah Wilson, a senior from Detroit, urged the search committee to not lock its sites on a candidate just because they might have previous ties to Grambling State University.

“I think we need to branch out and find different mindsets because if you hire too many people from the same place, then everybody’s thinking alike and nobody’s thinking outside of the norms,” Johnson said.