College Board to keep school president candidates names secret

Published 4:56 pm Friday, September 22, 2006

Candidates for president of a Mississippi university will remain secret, the state College Board has decided.

The board will be conducting searches this year for presidents at Alcorn State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Shelby Thames, USM president since 2002, will step down in May 2007. Alcorn’s president, Clinton Bristow Jr., died of heart failure Aug. 19, while jogging on campus.

The College Board got some criticism when it decided not to make public candidates being considered for president of Mississippi State University.

Board members heard Thursday from consultant Jan Greenwood with the Miramar Beach, Fla.-based Greenwood and Associates Inc.

The more confidential the process is the more likely the pool will include sitting presidents, Greenwood said. She stressed the importance of including constituents and key players in the process.

“The more you can do to provide evidence of inclusiveness, usually the better this goes along the way,” said Greenwood.

She said the more public a process is, the more campus politics usually flare up.

Board member Scott Ross of West Point said the confidential approach causes feelings of mistrust, and exacerbates feelings at MSU that the board thinks of them as a “stepchild.”

“I do not believe the secrecy is worth it overall,” he said.

The process does include input from constituents associated with the institution, including the alumni association, faculty, students, community members and others, board members said.

“Every constituency group has a voice in the process, and so they’re the ones who are going to review the resumes, every resume, they know everything,” Higher Education Commissioner Tom Meredith said.

Meredith said Alcorn campus constituents might start weighing in on Oct. 2, and start building a profile for a new president. He hopes USM’s process will gear up about a month later.