Former Jackson city council president and 40-year professor at Jackson State University Leslie McLemore said today that he would continue plans to redesign JSU until the state College Board picks a permanent president.
The state College Board chose McLemore as interim president of the university yesterday, weeks after current JSU President Ronald Mason Jr. announced he would be moving to Baton Rouge, La., to preside over the multiple-campus Southern University System in June.
"It's a short period, but I think I can help try to continue to provide leadership for the faculty, staff and students," said McLemore, who retired last year from the council and from a full-time position as college professor to pursue his interests at JSU's Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy.
During McLemore's short stint he will likely have to contend with budget constraints, and an unpopular push to streamline the university's curriculum, which could make some university programs and professors obsolete. Mason referenced the streamlining effort at a May press luncheon and offered his empathy to the next president because budget shortfalls would, in his view, surely force the incoming leader to move forward with cutting staff and class offerings. The new president would have to contend with combative JSU factions in the process
"...(T)he next president--bless his or her heart--is going to have to steer through that process because the ... (lack of) money really drives the situation. Our position still is that Jackson State can't just be smaller version of (itself). It has to look at the resources available and really redesign itself to not only reduce the budget but be globally competitive down the road. It is going to be a challenge either way," Mason said.
McLemore said he expected to fill the position until late December or early January because the State College Board informed him that they would install a permanent president for the university in January. He said that during this short time, he would do all he could to walk the university through some accreditation matters.
"Clearly we have some accreditation issues coming up involving not only the university, but some of the departments that are up for accreditation with their professional associations, so I can provide some leadership and work with staff members already working on those issues," McLemore said, adding that that he also wanted to continue Mason's stated goal of increasing faculty salaries because he believes the university needs to remain competitive with other universities.
Mason said in May that the next president would have to work hard to derail the university from its current path to progress.
When asked about his own thoughts on the streamlining effort, McLemore said he would provide a politically correct answer.
"I'm going to take a look at it to see what I can do and check on the status of it and see what can be done beyond this point, but right now, I'm going to take a look at it before anything is done," he said.