College president search should not be secret

Published 3:53 pm Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss.

The state College Board announced recently it had selected former Norfolk State University president Carolyn Meyers as Jackson State University’s potential new leader and Fisk University Vice president Christopher Brown to take the helm at Alcorn State.

Each will visit the respective campus to meet with alumni, students, faculty and staff before the appointments are finalized.

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Brown, 38, has done extensive research into black higher education and stands to become the youngest public university president in Mississippi. …

Meyers, 64, resigned from NSU in Virginia in June. She said Jackson State is seen as a leader in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities community. …

Both Brown and Meyers have extensive experience with HBCUs.

Meyers has degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering, and more than 30 years in higher education.

“(They) are the best possible individuals to lead these two great institutions,” College Board member C.D. Smith said.

The potential new leaders are arriving just as the universities face major budget decisions, with state appropriations set to drop by as much as 15 percent in the coming year.

At first blush, the College Board’s continued use of a confidential search process seems to have yielded quality candidates. But as this newspaper has noted before, secrecy in presidential searches sometimes backfires. …

Conducting presidential searches in secret not only runs counter to good public policy, but also abdicates fundamental obligations of a publicly funded, government-supported entity.

Mississippi currently requires more openness and transparency from a county supervisor buying a culvert than we do of a public university that’s “buying” a new university president.

That said, Brown and Meyers seem to be quality choices.