Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Landry asks for pause in hiring UL System president

by BIZ Magazine

By Julie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

MONROE — Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry has tried to intervene in the hiring of Grambling State University president and former Democratic legislator as the new head of Louisiana’s largest public university system. 

Grambling State University President Rick Gallot was expected to take over as the University of Louisiana System president Jan. 1. But with only a few days remaining in the year, the UL System board has not extended him a contract offer.

Landry indicated, in an interview with reporters Wednesday, he wants to talk to both the board and Gallot before the deal is finalized. 

“I’m not opposed to anything,” Landry said. “I want to be able to meet with the board, and with Rick, to make sure the direction that they want to steer the system is the direction that people of this state believe the system should be directed.”

“When you got a change of governorship – a new governor comes in – he’s taking a new direction, and he or she should be afforded the respect to visit with those folks to make sure that they all align,” Landry said.

Gallot’s selection was supposed to have been a done deal weeks ago. With little public notice, the UL System board pushed through a vote confirming him as president in late October and gave three board members the authority to work out the details of his contract.

“I look forward to meeting with the governor-elect and discussing the future,” Gallot said in an interview Wednesday evening.

Gallot has been running Grambling, the only historically Black university in the UL System, since 2016. An attorney and Grambling alumnus, he also served as a Democratic state lawmaker representing north Louisiana from 2000 to 2015. 

On Wednesday, Landry said he and Gallot have a “great relationship.” Gallot endorsed Landry when he first ran for attorney general and even appeared in a political advertisement for the governor-elect back in 2015.

That doesn’t mean Landry and Gallot would see eye-to-eye on education policy, however.

“I don’t want Rick to work for me … and me directing him or expressing to the UL System one way and they don’t believe in it.” Landry said. 

The decision of who runs the UL System isn’t necessarily Landry’s to make.

Louisiana’s higher education system is set up such that governors are not supposed to be directly involved in selecting university system leaders. The UL System president also doesn’t work directly for the governor, in spite of what Landry implied Wednesday.

Governors appoint members to higher education boards, including the one overseeing the UL System. Those appointed members, who the Louisiana Senate must confirm, then hire system presidents.

Board member terms are staggered, such that governors typically have to win more than one term before they get to pick every member on the boards.  

Landry, as a new governor, likely won’t be able to appoint any new members of the UL board until he has been in office for several months and may not have control over most of the 16 board seats — one of which is a non-voting student representative — until at least a year from now. 

The UL System president oversees policy for its nine schools: the University of New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana University, Nicholls State University, McNeese State University, University of Louisiana-Lafayette, University of Louisiana-Monroe, Northwestern State University, Grambling and Louisiana Tech. 

The position opened up suddenly this fall when Jim Henderson, in an usual move, decided to step down to take a job as president of Louisiana Tech.

Should Gallot get the job running the UL System, it would be a historic event in Louisiana. Three of the state’s four higher education systems would be run by Black men for the first time. LSU President William Tate, Southern University System Dennis Shields and Gallot are all African American.

You may also like

Update Required Flash plugin