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    Presidential search continues

    Dillard University’s search committee has begun its quest to find the university’s ninth president – all over again. Dillard’s board of trustees made its pick from two finalists who visited the campus earlier this month, during an October meeting, but the candidate of choice has since declined, leaving the position wide open for candidates to re-apply or apply for the first time.

    “Whenever these decisions are made, a lot of factors go into it, such as personal or professional,” said Harold Clark, a Dillard spokesman who attempted to explain why the candidate could have turned down the offer.

    Clark said neither the board or the search committee have given the Office of Communications the OK to reveal whether their choice was John Silvanus Wilson, a George Washington University Virginia Campus executive dean, or Donald E. Thompson, a National Science Foundation official. The two finalists visited the campus for evaluation sessions with faculty, staff and students.

    Official communication was sent internally to students, faculty and staff, Clark said, to inform them of the latest development. According to Clark, the statement notified the campus body that the board’s chairman, Charles Ferguson, was notified on Oct. 12 by the search firm, Boston-based Isaacson, Miller, that the finalist of choice withdrew himself from further consideration.

    The board has since decided to start the process over in an attempt to choose the most suitable person to lead the University.

    But with speculations on campus about which candidate declined and why, some faculty and students are wondering why the offer was not made to the second finalist. According to the memo, the board unanimously agreed to make the offer to only one candidate.

    “If No. 1 doesn’t take it, it does not necessarily mean that we automatically give it to No. 2,” Clark said in an attempt to explain the confidential search process.

    Others disagree.

    “My theory is if you have 2 finalists, if one declines, then you offer the other one, or maybe they did and he declined also, who knows?” said Cortez Watkins, junior class president.

    Watkins, who is a physics major from Memphis, Tenn., acknowledged that the selection of a president at any university is a major decision and said he believes that the search firm is sincere in the process, having met representatives of the firm.

    “I can see how it’s possible that someone would decline, but what did the guy find out about Dillard’s reputation that turned him off and made him decline?” asked Watkins, “It makes me think that something is being hidden from the student body that should be disclosed to us.”

    Local media has reported on Dillard’s budget and finance woes, and several senior faculty and administrators have been offered and accepted retirement plans recently and have already left the institution or will be departing soon. According to some faculty announcements, such persons are, so far, Edgar L. Chase III, dean of the division of Business, and Dr. Joy O’Shields director of Career Services, whose role is now being filled by Dewain Lee, who is the director of educational enhancement options in the office of career services.

    “Out of roughly of several candidates to be the top two candidates for the position of president for one of the top HBCUs in the country, the question is why,” Watkins continued.

    Clark said many of the decisions were made in executive meetings and the process will remain confidential and internal.

    Clark reaffirmed that interim president, Dr. Bettye Parker Smith will continue to steer the leadership of the university while the process takes its course.

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    Presidential search continues