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Our Opinion: Before selecting president, LU should search inward

Our Opinion: Before selecting president, LU should search inward

September 7th, 2017 by News Tribune in Opinion

As the process begins to find a new Lincoln University president, we agree with Interim President Mike Middleton's assessment that, first and foremost, the next Lincoln president needs to be "someone with visionary leadership."

Whoever is selected will have their work cut out for them. The new leader will come at a time when state funding shortfalls have resulted in cuts in higher education. At the same time, LU has struggled in recent years to keep its student population, much less grow it.

LU has focused on recruitment, but we question whether the university has seen the expected payout.

Before looking outward for a new president, the school needs to look inward. Before starting a nationwide search, it should consider whether anyone on the current payroll has the ability or desire to do the job.

Second, it needs to look inward to determine what it wants to be. Does it want to focus on its original mission as one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities? Or does it want to focus its recruitment efforts nearby, looking to serve a more regional population? Or does it want to try to be both an HBCU and a regional university?

LU has a proud African-American history, being founded by soldiers and officers of the 62nd United States Colored Infantry. They were stationed at Fort McIntosh, Texas, but composed primarily of Missourians.

The school's racial makeup has shifted in recent decades from primarily black students to more white students, including many older students.

We believe the new president should have an academic background first and a business background second. Both skills are needed, as a good leader will be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the current faculty and work with them effectively.

He or she also will have to understand the business of running a university. That includes marketing and being a successful fund-raiser. A good president can convince the Missouri Legislature to appropriate more funds, convince alumni to donate and create beneficial partnerships with the community and others.

Even someone who has these skills might not be able to squeeze blood from a turnip to get legislative funding, which means the job likely will require the new president to find ways to run the operation more efficiently.

Do you have ideas regarding the search for a new president? LU would like to hear them. Email your thoughts to presidentialsearch@lincolnu.edu.