Committee wades through Ole Miss chancellor possibilities

OXFORD – Nominations and applications for the job of succeeding Robert Khayat as chancellor of the University of Mississippi are being reviewed by the search advisory committee, made up of Ole Miss staff and faculty, students, alumni and community leaders.
The next chancellor will take over a university whose national standing, physical plant, financial endowment and student body have been enhanced under Khayat’s leadership but likely will face budget challenges beyond any that Khayat, a master of fundraising, has encountered.
The search goal is to have a successor in place by mid-June. Khayat’s retirement after 14 years as Ole Miss’ chief executive officer and most visible spokesman is scheduled for June 30.
Some of the names frequently speculated on as likely candidates include Dr. Dan Jones, the current vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, and prominent Jackson attorney Barry Cannada. In recent days even the name of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, now a political science professor at Stanford University, has been mentioned.
Advisory committee chair Alice Clark, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, declined Friday either to characterize or to quantify the names received thus far.
“We have cast a wide net,” she said. “I suspect we’ll get a wide variety of candidates.” She added she is confident that several outstanding candidates will emerge.
With a “preferred” date – not a hard deadline – of April 20 for applications and nominations, the consultant overseeing the search expects more to flow in.
“The best candidates will often not submit their information until pretty much the last minute,” said Dan Parker, president of Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search. “They want to trust the system and be confidential.”

Keeping quiet
The confidentiality clause that all search process participants signed is crucial: At least twice in previous searches within the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning system, candidates whose names were leaked lost the posts they already held at other universities.
Parker personnel currently are conducting background searches on the candidates they have.
“We won’t recommend to you any candidate on whom we haven’t done … degree confirmations, media reviews and criminal, credit and motor vehicle background checks,” Parker said last month.
With such information in hand, the advisory committee will work toward consensus on five candidates sometime in May. The seven-member board search committee and representatives of the campus group will then interview the recommended candidates in person.
Only the preferred candidate who emerges from those interviews will be named publicly. He or she will then visit with campus constituencies, who will offer feedback before the full IHL Board of Trustees makes a final hiring decision.

Daily Journal reporter Patsy R. Brumfield contributed to this article. Contact her at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com. Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

 

Errol Castens/Daily Journal