Governor doesn’t make short list for NU president

NO GO: Gov. Dave Heineman did not make the short list of finalists for president of the University of Nebraska.

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – Four finalists were announced for the University of Nebraska presidency on Monday, and Gov. Dave Heineman is not on the list.

The selection committee approved the finalists after a closed, private meeting.

The finalists are:
Hank M. Bounds, higher ed commissioner for Missisippi Institutions of Higher Learning since 2009. Prior to that he was state superintendent of education for Mississippi.

Michael Martin, chancellor of Colorado State University System in Denver since 2012. Prior to that, he was chancellor of Louisiana State University and A&M College.

Dr. Sally J Rockey, deputy director for extramural research, National Institutes for Health, since 2010. Prior to that, she held various positions in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extramural Research arm.

Dr. George E. Ross, president of Central Michigan University since 2010. Prior to that, he was president of Alcorn State University, the nation’s first public historically Black land-grant university.

Regents Chairman Howard Hawks said the committee is excited to present the candidates, who are all very different and will be a challenge for regents to choose from. He said that search will now move into “high gear.”

The university is searching for a successor to J.B. Milliken, who became chancellor of City University of New York in June.

Gov. Dave Heineman made his candidacy public in May, generating controversy because he has strong ties to four regents. Some alleged he was trying to publicly pressure the regents and his candidacy could have a chilling effect on other potential candidates.

He’s worked for one, appointed two and endorsed another regent:
• In the 1980s, Heineman was chief of staff to then-Congressman Hal Daub.
• In 2006, he appointed Bob Phares to the board and in 2013, Rob Schafer.
• In 2008 the governor endorsed Tim Clare.

The state Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint against the governor, alleging he improperly used public resources to announce his NU candidacy to try to get a “lucrative job” that pays four times more than his current salary.

The governor earns $105,000 annually, while Milliken made nearly $421,000. In addition, the NU Foundation bought a $750,000, 7,000-square-foot Lincoln house for the next university president.

The job description — crafted by a search firm and approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents — says candidates with an advanced degree, teaching experience and a record of research and scholarship will be given preference.

Heineman doesn’t have experience running a university, nor an advanced degree, but the governor highlighted his work on education and economic development and argued “chancellors and provosts pretty much run the university particularly as it relates to academics.”

On top of that, the governor has been caught up in a series of prison scandals this year, which culminated in his testifying before a special investigatory legislative committee last week.

Final selection of the president will be made by the Board of Regents after the finalists make university visits and attend public forums.

Two presidential search committees comprised of 34 people were appointed by the board to help with the search. The committee has been meeting since August, reviewing applications, interviewing candidates and reviewing background checks.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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