Grambling State University graduates have mastered the space and discussion on GSU’s struggles, but have not turned the talk into advocacy. From Chicago to Dallas, from Los Angeles to Washington D.C., there is no more time or room for Internet advocacy.
Grambling’s supporters must transition, en masse, from over-excited observers to active stakeholders.
A lack of action over the next two weeks, or reaction playing out in the form of showing out at the next UL board meeting, may result in the last president Grambling will ever see, because another term of failed leadership will authorize the state’s power structure to pull the plug on autonomy, and to merge the school with another University of Louisiana System School in the next few years.
After all, the system has spent a lot of time and money illegally duplicating most of Grambling’s most attractive programs in business, kinesiology, and secondary education at nearby Louisiana Tech, all to prepare for the exact moment of seamless, race-baiting, tradition-erasing, cost-saving efficiency.
And no one seemed to notice, because the school changed presidential identities often enough so that the distraction of leadership transition would be enough to divert attention away from the separate-but-equal setup between the two schools, and its long-term effects.
Grambling State alumni must force the issue on the naming of its next president, and outside of Facebook, message boards, group chats and email exchanges, must begin to immerse themselves in details about the condition of GSU, not just the conspiracy theories which revolve around all HBCUs, and Louisiana’s public black colleges in particular.
They have to know what the endowment is, which programs are graduating large numbers of students, how much money has been appropriated to Grambling over the last five years and how the money was spent. They need to know which alumni chapters are giving the most money, what areas of the state and country send the largest number of undergraduate students to campus, and which corporations in Louisiana have worked with Grambling in the last 20 years.
These are just a handful of the dozens of questions which can help in shaping the ideal profile for a presidential search, and in building the profile for who GSU grads should demand the state to consider for the presidential vacancy. If alumni decide that building enrollment is the top priority, then they should consider a candidate with extensive experience in student affairs, and preferably with existing ties to Louisiana.
If the top priority is reestablishing the nursing school and building program capacity and faculty resources, then alumni should consider an academician with proven success in accreditation approval and monitoring, specifically with previous experience in areas of social science, education, business or health sciences.
If the most important thing is building connections with legislators, alumni and donors, then alumni should consider someone who brings in a cadre of active donor prospects, legislative victories and media savvy. But that person must be surrounded by a presidential mentor to help in identifying strong candidates for provost and student affairs, to account for the amount of time that will be necessary for them to spend off campus raising money.
But if Gramblinites decide that all three aspects are equal in importance, then they must identify a sitting executive with years of experience as a faculty member and with substantial brand power to leverage attention and insulation from the UL Board and legislators, at least for the first two years while they recover from the alumni coup.
All of this requires research, intellect and constant communication. And according to the UL Board, there’s less than two weeks before a new president could be named. In the reality of media cycles, that gives alumni a short week following a holiday weekend to review the HBCU landscape and talent-spot people who would be willing to live in rural Louisiana, to deal with an antagonistic board, to deal with a small faction of prominent alumni who want to make money off of the campus and its struggles, to deal with faculty who are likely to vote no confidence at the first sign of perceived wavering, and to deal with legislators who could pull the plug on the school with one audit request.
And despite all of that, there are several candidates around the country and in Louisiana who are interested in the job. All alumni have to do is find them, and tell the UL board that anyone less than the caliber of people assembled on their list is an outright declaration of harmful intention against the school, and grounds for legal action.
Good luck, Tigers. It is your time, but you don’t have much of it left.