LSU President Designate F. King Alexander, president of California State University Long Beach, revealed a few details Thursday at his first news conference on campus about the secretive search that resulted in his selection.
Alexander said he was first contacted about the newly combined president-chancellor position by R. William Funk & Associates, the search firm hired with LSU Foundation money to assist the Presidential Search Committee.
The news conference was one of many meetings Alexander has had at the University over the past couple of days — he also met with students Thursday and will meet with the faculty today, who have thus far expressed mixed opinions on his selection.
Having grown up in the South, Alexander said he was open to the search process and the idea of being a part of LSU, and he began a series of phone and in-person interviews with search committee members that resulted in his recommendation Monday as the only finalist for the job.
Alexander was neither aware of who else was being considered for the position, nor how many others were in the running, he said. The search process was confidential, which he said is not uncommon when searches reach the level of university president or chancellor.
The search’s confidentiality was a crucial component of his participation, he said, because releasing the names of those involved is always a “precarious situation.”
“I would not have done it if the confidentiality wasn’t in place,” Alexander said.
Although Alexander has not officially received the Board of Supervisors’ approval for the position — a process that will begin at a special meeting March 27, according to Board Member and Presidential Search Committee Chair Blake Chatelain — his nomination was met with mixed reviews.
While University administrators and members of the Boards of Supervisors and Regents have spoken favorably about Alexander in the past few days, he received criticism from the Faculty Senate, which passed a resolution Tuesday stating it has no confidence in the Board to make the right decision about the president designate.
Despite the Senate’s resolution, Alexander said he has a history of working well with faculty and would make it his priority as LSU president to ensure faculty have the “resources to do what they do best.”
Alexander also said he plans to work “across the aisle” with Gov. Bobby Jindal and state legislators who he believes “really want to do the best for children and students, even though we may not see eye to eye.”
Although Alexander and Jindal are both Oxford-educated, Alexander said they didn’t attend the university at the same time and have never met.
“I look forward to meeting Gov. Jindal and getting his ideas on where he thinks higher education will be five years from now,” Alexander said. “I think we all need to work together and work together closely. Not fight and work together to promote the values I think we all believe in.”
A state’s higher education system depends largely on the “ebb and flow” of the governor’s leadership, and working closely with that leadership, as well as students and the public, is the key to creating a higher education model that functions in the best interest of the state as a whole, Alexander said.
Focusing on increasing graduation rates is not only in the best interest of the state, Alexander said, it’s a “moral obligation.” As the president of CSU Long Beach, Alexander emphasized the motto “Graduation begins today,” and said he personally shook the hands of all 9,000 degree-receiving students as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.
This emphasis on increased performance is something Alexander said he hopes to bring to LSU, among other ideas for the System reorganization and the ever-worsening budget situation that Alexander said calls for a “more aggressive” pursuit of alternative revenue.