|Mark Emmert: LSU Prez 1999-2004|
Goodbye, Mark. We hardly knew ye!
Never disobey a court order--this was the advice my senior partner gave me when I practiced law as a young man. You can protest a judge's order, appeal the order, seek to have the order rescinded, but never
And of course this was good advice. The rule of law in the United States breaks down completely if some parties feel free to disregard the rulings of the courts.
But maybe the old rules no longer apply. The Baton Rouge Advocate
reported yesterday that Louisiana State University refused to comply with Judge Janice Clark's order to turn over the records of LSU's recent search for a new Chancellor, a search that ended last spring with the selection of F. King Alexander.
Judge Clark ruled that LSU is in contempt of court for refusing to turn over the records, and she fined the university $500 a day until it complies. As of August 14th, the total fine amounts to about $46,000.
Judge Clark's ruling came as the result of a lawsuit filed The Advocate
and The New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The newspapers had sued LSU under Louisiana's open records law, seeking to get the records of LSU's Chancellor search process. The newspapers want to know the names of the other applicants for the Chancellor's job. According to the Advocate
, there were 34 semi-finalists whose names were never revealed.
LSU maintains that these 34 individuals never formally applied for the Chancellor's position. According to LSU, Alexander was the sole formal applicant, and thus LSU is only obliged to reveal Alexander's name in connection with the Chancellor search process.
This is sheer sophistry. It is ludicrous for LSU to argue that King Alexander, the man who was named Chancellor of LSU, is the only guy who applied for the job. Without question other people also sought the position.
LSU argues that Alexander was the only applicant in a technical sense under its interpretation of the open records law. But Judge Clark and a Louisiana appellate court rejected LSU's argument, and Judge Clark ordered LSU to turn over the records. Now LSU is obliged to comply with Judge Clark's order.
Why--you are probably asking--does LSU want to hide the names of people who applied for the LSU Chancellor's job? LSU argues that revealing the names discourages good candidates from applying for the position. If a sitting college president applies for the LSU Chancellor's job and the president's present employer finds out, then the president might find his or her current job in jeopardy.
That is reasonable argument, and many universities across the United States basically take the same position. We must keep our executive searches secret, they say, so we can attract the best candidates.
But look who benefits from this philosophy--college presidents and other senior executives who are constantly trolling for their next job and don't want people to know about it.
On the other hand, don't our universities and other public institutions deserve to know if their leaders are in the job market? Of course they do.
And here is an example of why it is important for a university to know that its chief executive is looking for a new job. LSU hired Mark Emmert as its chancellor in 1999, hiring him away from the University of Connecticut where Emmert was president. As a recent USA Today
story documented, Emmert left UConn just ahead of a scandal having to do with construction projects. Emmert stayed at LSU five years and left for the University of Washington, leaving behind a scandal in LSU's athletic program.
As USA Today pointed out, Emmert seems to have a record of moving from place to place, leaving scandals behind at his former jobs. "Rightly or wrongly," the USA Today reporter observed, Emmert "has a history of dodging blame in scandals that have festered on his campuses, sometimes moving on to a more lucrative job before the full extent becomes known."
Today, our colleges and universities are experiencing a crisis in moral leadership. College presidents have basically become fund raisers who are paid exorbitant salaries. Many are constantly looking for their next gig and an an even bigger pay check.
It seems to me that university governing boards and taxpayers are entitled to know if their executive leaders are shopping around for new jobs. For one thing, that fact may be an indication the executive wants to leave before a scandal breaks.
There was a time when universities followed the law, but no longer. Increasingly, they have become arrogant institutions, raising tuition nearly every year, paying their senior leaders fat salaries and benefits, and resisting all efforts to hold them accountable.
I agree with the Baton Rouge Advocate's
editorial on this controversy. By refusing to turn over records of its Chancellor search process, LSU has shown contempt not only for a court but for the people LSU is supposed to serve--the people of Louisiana.
Editorial. Our Views: LSU Board shows its contempt. Baton Rouge Advocate, August 16, 2013. Accessible at: http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/6783345-123/our-views-lsu-board-shows
Joe Gyan Jr. Judge fines LSU Board. The
(Baton Rouge) Advocate
. August 15, 2013, p. 1.
Brent Schrotetenboer. Digging into the past of NCAA President Mark Emmert. USA Today, April 2, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaab/2013/04/02/ncaa-president-emmert-previous-cases-uconn-lsu/2047607/
Rodger Sherman. Mark Emmert failed to oversee at UConn and LSU too, according to LSU Today. SBNation.com
. Accessible at: http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2013/4/3/4176742/mark-emmert-ncaa-president-usa-today