Grambling State University graduate Frederick Pinkney has submitted an open letter to the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, charging the board with willful negligence in its presidential appointing power and governance practices.
Dr. Pinkney, a member of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ Higher Education Transition Committee, chronicles the historic and current disparities in Grambling’s performance under changing leadership, in comparison to other UL System institutions.
The recent forced resignation of Grambling State University’s (GSU) president by the University of Louisiana System (ULS) Board of Supervisors (BOS) is another example of the flagrant display of the board’s lack of support of and minimal interest in GSU’s growth, stability, and strong legacy of excellence. Once again, the board has negated its policies by attempting to fill the presidency in one month. This is an action that sends the clear message that it (the board) does not represent the university’s best interests. Further, the ULS-BOS continues to exploit and oppress GSU through its governance of instability and political order. Unfortunately, this discriminatory relationship between the ULS-BOS and GSU is nothing new.
From 1901 to 1991, GSU had three presidents who served over the 90-year span. The institution grew from a small agricultural school to an internationally acclaimed university offering 108 degree programs and boasting top rankings in the areas of CIS, criminal justice, education, nursing, and athletics.
From 1992 to 2016, the ULS-BOS under the leadership of various system presidents, hired nine Presidents at GSU – six permanent and three interim. Five of six presidents were forced to resign, and two interim presidents were not permitted to apply for the permanent position. This designed instability has resulted in the loss of 55 degree programs, a decline from 9,000 to 4,500 in student enrollment, a substantial decrease in grant funding and corporate sponsorships, the non-renewal of the consent decree, the loss of the bachelor’s degree program in nursing, doctoral degree in K-12 Administration and Supervision, and the removal of the three laboratory schools.
Resultantly, the ULS-BOS, in conjunction with state legislators, has systemically compromised efforts to offer a quality education that is affordable and accessible. In contrast, none of the other eight institutions – La. Tech, ULM, Northwestern, McNeese, Nicholls State, ULL, Southeastern and UNO – have experienced this kind of turnover in leadership and loss. As the only historically black college and university (HBCU) in the ULS, one is forced to conclude that Grambling State University is neither a priority to nor worthy of capable leadership by the ULS-BOS. This, despite the fact that GSU is an essential economic driver to the state and the community it serves with a total annual spending impact of 264 million dollars. As part of the ULS, the impact of each dollar invested in GSU is multiplied by eight as it cycles through the Louisiana economy.
Additionally, this “revolving door of leadership” has exposed a system of protection for incompetent senior leadership at GSU by the ULS-BOS during the tenures of Sally Clausen and Sandra Woodley, who served as system president from 2001-2010 and 2013-2015 respectively. Interestingly, the board seems to have an “inexplicable affinity” for and the unwarranted protection of GSU’s vice president for finance, particularly the last two. Seemingly, they have been given the privilege of usurping the university president’s authority and reporting directly to the ULS-BOS. No president has been able to fire or reassign them. They tend to have received more support from ULS-BOS than any president under which they served, and they and other high-ranking, incompetent administrators out serve the presidents.
This kind of political chicanery dates back to the Judson Administration when the Black and Gold Foundation was formed. Billy Owens, then-vice president for finance, submitted contracts and agreements prepared by then-State Representative Rick Gallot on behalf of Grambling State University to continue negotiations with Black and Gold Facilities, Inc., (a subsidiary of the Black and Gold Foundation) to build campus housing complexes. The ULS-BOS, of which Dr. Mildred Gallot, Rick’s mother, was a member, approved the request during its June 23, 2006, meeting. This one act, guided by Billy Owens, single-handedly compromised the affordability of Grambling for the students it serves and was a key factor in the loss of revenue and the deficit that the university currently faces. When a group of university employees uncovered and reported the malfeasance of Billy Owens to the ULS-BOS, they were fired and Billy Owens was allowed to remain until he “resigned,” citing a family emergency. Ironically, his resignation after malfeasance had been proven.
This is why it was not surprising to see Sally Clausen, who serves in no position on the ULS-BOS, at the last board meeting during which it was decided that Leon Sanders, current vice president for finance, was selected as “the person in charge of campus operations,” pending the naming of a president. Leon Sanders was hired at GSU by Billy Owens as director of facilities. Clearly, this is the culture created and sanctioned by the ULS-BOS. Because GSU is an academic institution, it is no stretch of the imagination to assume that the board would select an academician as “the person in charge.” After all, there are professors who, in addition to being tenured, are also capable of handling the day-to-day operations at the university. Both, Dr. Dan Reneau and Dr. Les Guice, Louisiana Tech’s former and current presidents respectively, served in the academic arena prior to their presidential tenures.
The board’s recent departure from its hiring policy to fast-track a president without a search committee and established criteria further promulgates the wide-spread rumor and reference made in diverseeducation.com that Attorney Richard “Rick” Gallot, Jr, is the presumptive nominee and will be appointed president of GSU on August 1. Attorney Gallot, a Grambling alumnus, former state representative and state senator who chaired the House and Governmental Affairs Committee under Governor Jindal, was the recipient of seven conflict-of-interest charges involving his legal representation of a company in business dealings with GSU and the board during Sally Clausen’s term as system president. Due to statute of limitations expiration, he was later cleared of these charges. Additionally, according to an article that ran in the May 8, 2014, edition of The Times Picayune newspaper, Attorney Gallot used $3,189 in campaign funds for a trade mission trip to Panama in 2012. The Senate reimbursed the expenses, but his campaign reports included no evidence that he repaid his campaign. Gallot dropped out of the 3rd District Judge race the next month.
Despite this, Gallot has a well-established name and reputation in the Grambling community; and he could well serve GSU in several other positions, such as Vice-President for Governmental Affairs or Vice-President of Institutional Advancement.
Moreover, just as other ULS schools, Grambling State University needs a seasoned-academician and higher education administrator at its helm.
I dare say that most of the members of the Grambling State University family are not pleased with the persistent degradation of our beloved institution and our strong legacy of excellence. We see what is happening, and we neither approve nor trust the decisions being made by the ULS-BOS. We DEMAND that the ULS-BOS take a reasonable amount of time to conduct a national search to identify a leader who possesses the leadership necessary to ensure that Grambling State University remains a comprehensive four-year institution. We DEMAND the same attention and professionalism given to other ULS schools. We will not sit idly by to allow these shenanigans to continue. We must and we will refute the argument that the only power white folks give to black folks is the power to destroy themselves.
We will not be destroyed by back room decisions by a few which affect the whole and stifle our ability to become who we are. WE ARE GRAMBLING! It is our hope that Governor John Bel Edwards, for whom many of us voted, will not allow this to happen under his watch.