Potential candidates worried about future

The Hollins Group, the organization responsible for the Grambling State University presidential search, will meet in Baton Rouge on Feb. 24 to discuss the search timeline and other concerns. According to a letter to the University of Louisiana System, the GSU presidential candidates are worried about the economic future of the institution.

 “The best current and potential candidates have numerous career options,” stated Lawrence Hollins, president of the Hollins Group. “It is very unlikely they will put an offer on hold from a stable institution to wait for Grambling’s budget issues to clarify.”

The letter also stated that the candidates want to ensure that Grambling has a positive future before they would accept an offer to lead the institution or before their names were released as interested in the job.

“The consultants will postpone identifying candidates until this discussion takes place at the next meeting,” said the UL System President Sandra Woodley in a press release.

Woodley said the purpose of the meeting with the Hollins Group is to “walk through the challenges and provide any recommendations” necessary to move the search on, which can include extending the timetable. The meeting will take place at the Claiborne Conference Center in Room 100 at 1201 North Third St., Baton Rouge the time has not been announced.

Stavinoha Bradley, 23, a senior business management major, said there is nothing wrong with the candidates not wanting to reveal their name because no finalists have been named yet. However, Bradley said there is something wrong if a candidate does not want to continue in the search process in fear of budget cuts to the institution.

“A president that comes to Grambling should be focused on strengthening our academic programs, emphasizing on enrollment and retention, but most importantly, the president needs to have a strong financial plan already prepared to offset the current budget,” said the Houston native and self-acclaimed student activist.

The intensely dread budget cuts come from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. The higher education cuts are estimated to range from $300 million to $400 million, that would be a state-financing cut of about 40 percent across Louisiana’s public colleges, and that would include Grambling “The good news is our friends in the Legislature understand the dire and lasting impacts these cuts would have and are working with us to find funding solutions,” said Woodley.
Enrollment and retention will be a high priority for the next president. In a meeting with the GSU Faculty Senate in October, Interim President Cynthia Warrick said student tuition makes up 70 percent of the school budget.

However, Grambling has already seen a more than 50 percent cut from state revenue in the last eight years.
Another issue for GSU is its declining student enrollment. Last fall, enrollment dropped by more than 500 students to 4,504; the previous fall enrollment was 5,071.

Last week, Warrick, who replaced Frank Pogue on July 1, was very emotional – tears filled her eyes as she sat in her office – as she explained she would not be applying for the permanent position.

“I have embraced this opportunity as an honor and as long as I am here at Grambling, I will continue to use my time and energy to work on the initiatives I have started to make the university its best,” said Warrick, in a press release. “I truly believe in Grambling, its students, faculty, and staff; so I hope everyone will continue to work with me to ensure its future growth and success.”

Warrick and her journey with the institution have been rocky. In November, the Faculty Senate filed a vote of no confidence in her leadership and publicly questioned her decisions.

Student Government Association Vice President Ebony Wilson said the next president must be equipped to handle the problems at GSU.

“Grambling does not need anyone who is intimidated by a challenge but someone who is determined to improve the institution,” said Wilson, 21, a senior social work major from Shreveport.

The Hollins Group visited campus in December to meet with several faculty, student leaders and community members. The plan was to develop a search profile to assist in recruitment efforts.

Grambling has had four presidents since 2004: its first female president, Neari Francois Warner; Horace Judson, who resigned in 2009; Pogue, who retired in 2014; and now Warrick, in the interim capacity.

The deadline for applying for the presidential position is Feb. 13, but the committee will continue to take applications until the vacancy is filled. The Hollins Group plans to announce a new president by April.