The University of Louisiana System Board of Regents met this week to name a new president for Grambling State University. According to acting University of Louisiana System President Dan Reneau, political awareness is a prerequisite for the job.
“You better know some politics, better know the back rooms and the front rooms of the Legislature,” he says to applause from the crowd, made up mostly of Grambling alumni.
Former state Senator Rick Gallot qualifies, as Grambling alumnus Dr. Janet Duncan Barnes explained.
“You have to live in Louisiana to understand Louisiana politics. You have to understand Louisiana politics to get what we need. We are at an advantage of having Rick, who is not only an alumnus, but his whole family is an alumnus,” she says.
The UL System Board agreed, selecting Gallot as Grambling’s 10th president.
Gallot spent twelve years in the Louisiana House of Representatives, followed by four years in the Senate.
But he faces no easy task.
“Grambling is in serious trouble,” warned Reneau.
UL Lafayette President Joe Savoie, a former Louisiana Higher Education Commissioner, says while politics is a big part of the job, these days a university president also has to master the ins-and-outs of limited revenue.
“We’re just trying real hard to make sure we’re being prudent," he says, "we’re being conservative. We’ve assessed some additional fees. We’re taking those fees and putting them aside to see if we can use them as a bridge of some sort come the Spring semester.”
For Grambling in particular, eight years of state funding cuts to higher education have left the HBCU in fairly desperate straits. Still, Savoie says, the situation for Gallot could be worse.
“Coming out of the Legislative session, we were pleased that funding for higher education was essentially flat--almost flat--which is a tremendous improvement from the previous eight or nine years. At least there’s some stability,” he says.