The Jackson State University National Alumni Association is challenging the process for selecting leaders of the state’s universities.
The alumni association and other JSU advocates are developing a strategy to “revise the Institutions of Higher Learning Board policy, as it relates to the search process, before the next institutional executive officer search in the state of Mississippi,” Yolanda R. Owens, president of the JSU National Alumni Association, said in an open letter to alumni and the IHL board members.
Dr. William B. Bynum, president of Mississippi Valley State University, was designated Monday the preferred candidate for president of Jackson State University by the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees search committee.
“The process itself is not something that I think at this point in time is the major hot topic of conversation. It’s having the right candidate who has the experience and knows what the challenges are,” IHL Commissioner Glenn Boyce responded.
“I’m extremely disappointed especially because every last JSU representative gave (Bynum) a resounding no,” said Kendall Bunch, outgoing student government association president at JSU and member of the interview search advisory committee. which was appointed by the IHL board.
“I am shocked, because Dr. Bynum was a part of the pool of candidates and he did not make the second round (of interviews),” said Dr. Jean-Claud Assad, co-chair of the campus search advisory committee and member of the interview search advisory committee.
“IHL is going to have to answer to this,” said Assad.
Immediately after the announcement at IHL headquarters in Jackson on Monday, Jackson State alumni and other constituents who have been critical of the selection process walked out in protest.
“With the announcement of the preferred candidate for president of Jackson State University, the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees elected to depart from the established 20 step process outlined on its website,” Owens stated in the letter.
“The decision on the preferred candidate was made without input from the Interview Search Advisory Committee (who was dismissed on May 8) and the board’s application of the policy is a dishonor to the spirit of the process and ultimately the entire Jackson State University community.”
The IHL’s Boyce counters that many of the criticisms are inaccurate.
“The board and myself have done exactly as the process says every single round and we will continue to do that,” he said. “We feel strongly that the process is effective and the fact remains that I’m more focused on the who the candidate is.
“Keep in mind that the advisory committee is just that. But the decision is the board’s responsibility,” Boyce added.
Dr. James T. Minor was the interview search advisory committee’s preferred candidate. Minor, a JSU alumnus, was also popular among the general public for his service as deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Post-secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education from March 2014 to August 2016. Minor is currently the senior strategist for academic success in the chancellor’s office at California State University.
“As an alumni family, we are enormously disappointed that the board chose not to honor the recommendation made by the representatives of the Administration, Faculty, Staff, Students, Foundation, Community and Alumni,” said Owens.
On May 31, Bynum will be at Jackson State for a full day of meetings with constituents at the JSU Student Center:
9 a.m. Administration, faculty and staff
10 a.m. Students
11 a.m. Alumni/community
1 p.m. Board meeting
1:30 p.m. Press conference
Former JSU president Dr. Carolyn Meyers announced her resignation in October, less than a week after the Institutions of Higher Learning appointed an accounting analytics firm to assess the university’s finances. IHL trustees reported that Jackson State’s cash reserves declined from $37 million to $4 million over four years. The board hired Ridgeland-based Matthews, Cutrer & Lindsay P.A. to assess the university’s finances between fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2016.
Dr. Rod Paige was named interim president of JSU in November.