‘A change for Kentucky State University’: KSU hopes to name new president by spring

·4 min read
Silas Walker/swalker@herald-leader.com

Finalists for the next president of Kentucky State University could be named by the end of April, according to the search committee.

The committee met for the first time on Tuesday evening and discussed a potential timeline for the search for the next president of KSU. The official timeline will be approved at the committee’s next meeting, but the goal is to have two to three finalists brought to campus for in-person interviews at the end of April, with the new president selected by the board of regents after those visits.

However, the timeline is flexible and could change in the coming months, said Travis Powell, vice president and general counsel for the Council on Postsecondary Education and chair of the search committee.

“We’ll do whatever it takes to make the right decision,” Powell said.

KSU will use a search firm, Myers McRae Executive Search and Consulting, to assist with the search. The first step is to create a document that outlines the position of the president, and includes information about KSU and Frankfort, said Kenny Daugherty, president of Myers McRae. That document would be made public by mid-December, and interested candidates could start applying.

By March, the committee would stop accepting applications, based on the timeline laid out by Daugherty. From there, the committee would begin narrowing down the number of candidates and selecting some for Zoom interviews. After virtual interviews, a small number of candidates would be selected for in-person interviews and campus visits.

The search committee will ultimately give two to three names of finalists to the board of regents, who will make the final selection, said Elaine Farris, board of regents chair.

The committee also discussed ways to get feedback on potential candidates, including ideas for surveys and Zoom sessions over the next several months. In those, questions like “What are you looking for in the next president?” would be asked to students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.

The search committee is made up of 11 members: one member from CPE, two KSU students, two KSU faculty members, two KSU staff members, two alumni and two community members from Frankfort.

Search committee members expressed concerns about thorough background checks and transparency. Committee members also said they are hoping to get many people from the KSU community involved, and receive input early on in the process.

“We are wanting a change for Kentucky State University,” said Katrisha Waldridge, a Frankfort City Commissioner and KSU alumni serving on the committee.

The search for the previous president was not without controversy. After previous President Raymond Burse resigned in 2016, KSU faculty and alumni were upset with how the $120,000 search for his replacement played out.

That search committee selected three finalists, two with controversial backgrounds and one with less than two years of experience in higher education. M. Christopher Brown was selected as president in 2017. At the time, concerns were raised about Brown over reports of spending to upgrade the president’s residence at Alcorn State University in Mississippi.

KSU was placed under state oversight earlier this year, with CPE conducting an investigation into the management and finances of the university. Brown resigned from KSU this summer, along with the former CFO Douglas Allen.

Since then, concerns have been raised about Brown’s financial management at KSU.

At a CPE meeting in November, the new CFO Greg Rush said the university previously had an “overall lack of budgetary control, pretty much top to bottom.” Powell said one area without financial control was the president’s office, which overspent by $850,000 one year.

CPE also found that the university would frequently not pay vendors, and earlier this year, had significant debts to pay off. In CPE’s report, some KSU staff members were “told to ‘not answer their phones’ when vendors called.”

“They also indicated that they were threatened with termination if they disclosed that the university did not have sufficient cash for its obligations,” the report said.

CPE, on behalf of KSU, has requested $23 million from the state to cover the university’s budget deficit. The money would be placed in a trust that would require the school to get approval from CPE before spending the funds.

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