Sunday, July 21, 2024

UL System President Henderson to be sole LA Tech president interviewee

by BIZ Magazine

By Piper Hutchinson, Louisiana Illuminator

The University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors suspended its rules at a special meeting Monday to invite system President Jim Henderson to interview for the top job at Louisiana Tech. No other candidates will be considered at this time. 

Henderson will be interviewed at a special board meeting Oct. 25, when the public will be invited to comment on the move. 

At that time, the board could vote to name Henderson as Louisiana Tech president without considering further applicants, or it could return to standard procedure and name a search committee to seek other candidates. 

“I think the board had a very thoughtful conversation that resulted in a process that brings credibility to this transition,” Henderson said in an interview.

Louis Reis, president of the university senate at Louisiana Tech, which serves as the voice for faculty and staff, disagreed with the board’s decision to reject a search committee. 

“I’m a little disappointed that they have not considered the faculty and staff of Louisiana Tech and their input,” Reis said in an interview. “I would hope that the UL System board will take our input after its selection meeting after such a presentation occurs.” 

Henderson’s candidacy for the Louisiana Tech job is unusual — and complicated. Both state law and the board’s own rules and bylaws ensure the system president is heavily involved in the selection of a university president, serving as the non-voting chair of every search committee. Henderson has served in the role for multiple president searches during his tenure, including two this year. 

Search committees are typically used to fill administrative roles in higher education. The committees ensure the appropriate time is taken to deliberate on the choice, as the president of a university plays an integral and powerful role at the campus and state level. Committees also generally accept faculty, student and community input. 

If the board votes to select Henderson without convening a search committee, the faculty will not be permitted a vote, which is usually expected.  Board bylaws require at least one member of each search committee be a faculty member of the institution appointed by that school’s faculty senate president.

Henderson expressed sympathy with faculty concerns, but said he felt the board came up with a balanced solution. 

If the board has opted for a search committee, Henderson said he believes the process would be tainted and could have a potential chilling effect on applicants. 

“If you have a search with a system president in the search, you’re gonna have a chilling effect on the applicant pool, because they’ll think that it’s a done deal,” Henderson said. “And then if the system president is selected as part of that search world, the search was just a faux search, it was a facade.” 

Presidential searches generally also seek out a diverse pool of candidates. Because Louisiana Tech’s presidency was never advertised, no other candidates had the opportunity to be considered.

When asked why he would consider leaving his position, Henderson said it was always his plan to return to a job where he could work more closely with faculty and students than he does in his current position. 

Henderson also said he has a deep personal connection with the Ruston campus. His parents attended the university, and his youngest son is currently a sophomore there. 

Henderson currently earns a salary of $522,000 and will likely have to take a pay cut to move to Ruston. The highest paid of the nine system presidents is University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Joseph Savoie, who earns $450,500 annually. ULL has the top designation for a research university, while Tech has a secondary designation. A top designation is typically affiliated with higher salaries. 

If Henderson is not selected for the Louisiana Tech position, he will stay on as president of the system. In that case, the candidate selected would report to him.

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