How Are Folks Getting These Jobs at Grambling?

Credentials, experience center of attention for Tiger turnaround.

Credentials, experience center of attention for Tiger turnaround.

Grambling State University today announced a two-year contract extension for head football coach Broderick Fobbs, who in three years, has amassed a 19–8 overall record and two SWAC Coach of the Year honors.

Grambling State University, offers nationally distinctive programs in the arts, education, business, nursing and more…

And while this wasn’t a hire for GSU president Rick Gallot, it is from most indications the most justifiable personnel decision he’s made since returning to lead his alma mater in July.

Gallot, who remains Grambling’s last and best chance at executive stability within a vacuum that has claimed four presidents in four years, seems to be duplicating similar processes that many inside and outside of the university believe helped him to the school’s highest loft.

In the last few months, Gallot has hired a new provost and a vice-president of advancement, both with executive track records that mismatch with Grambling’s pressing needs in the critical areas.

Interim Provost Ellen Smiley’s appointment announcement reads like a warm overture to a daughter of Grambling and a well-liked, long-time faculty member. But at a university with, among other challenges, ambitions of jumpstarting accreditation confidence and industrial compliance for a defunct undergraduate nursing program, it’s hard to even glimpse how her experience lends itself to mission critical.

She started working at GSU in 1991 as an assistant program coordinator with the honors college and rose to become the director and then the dean. She has been an active academician, organizing a number of conferences and workshops and leading or participating with several personnel searches. She has served as executive assistant to the president and as assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

No publications, no research, no accreditation review experience; just a hard-working sister who loves Grambling and will be loyal.

The same goes for the recent appointment of Marc Newman as the vice-president of institutional advancement. Well known in the HBCU community as a central figure in the 2014 controversial departure of Dianne Boardley Suber at Saint Augustine’s University, Newman has since secured fundraising work at the United Negro College Fund and now, at Grambling.

But there is no record of any major gift, corporate connection or financial gain for any institution as a result of his being on payroll. Saint Augustine’s, which recently sold its ownership stake in the historic Meadowbrook Golf Course and is currently on accreditation warning for financial shortfalls, bears no search results with Newman’s fundraising highlights or record.

The same goes for UNCF, and much like his announcement, a dollar sign is no where to be found.

Newman has a track record for identifying critical development needs and executing successful strategies to achieve specific, identifiable business and organizational goals. With UNCF he has been responsible for development campaigns in North Carolina and Virginia, supervising staffs with fundraising, special events and board development. During his 2005–2014 tenure as vice president of institutional advancement at St. Aug, he was responsible for leading a team that saw the institution through a period of significant growth to include increases in alumni and annual giving campaigns, community development, grant acquisition and overseeing the transition of Saint Augustine’s College to Saint Augustine’s University.

Gramblinites, like most HBCU stakeholders, instantly go to the tale of the tape when it comes to who is being paid to guide their institutions. And if the resume or vitae is impressive, it buys that incoming administrator a month of time before a denied favor or request turns into a ‘no confidence’ vote or an ouster attempt.

And in talking with many of them, there is an uneasy sense that the appointments weren’t reviewed or regarded with saving GSU as the top priority. And that’s not to fault their skepticism, or Gallot’s ability to judge leadership. If you know anything about HBCU culture in Louisiana, you understand fully that all of these are signs of the not-so-covert culture of nepotism, alliances and politics that envelops both Grambling and the Southern University System.

It is a culture that is rightfully based in trust, loyalty and insulating ourselves from outside harm. But within that honorable charge, the culture manifests itself in bad ways of limited commitment to finding talent beyond a family relation, or a favor owed to a legislator, an influential donor or his relative, or a frat brother.

That’s okay for most institutions in higher ed which have the money to cover up or to reverse engineer bad hires or executive miscalculations. But at Grambling, with so much on the line, good ol’ HBCU culture is no longer more powerful than the crises confronting our institutions.