Our View: A reluctant search

August 24, 2011 12:58:00 PM



More than a year at the helm, Interim Mississippi University for Women President Allegra Brigham has done what some thought couldn''t be done: She has helped unify divided alumni and fostered a renewed sense of optimism. 


Both seemed like far-fetched goals when Brigham stepped down as CEO of 4-County Electric Power Association to lead a university licking its wounds after years of internecine warfare between the school''s alumni and its administration. Slowly and methodically, she developed campus relationships and nursed the university back to health. 


Enrollment is up. Controversy is down. 


Now it''s time to begin the next chapter in Mississippi University for Women history. 


Thursday, the state College Board will host a series of meetings -- with students, business and civic leaders, community members and MUW faculty and staff -- to begin the search for the next president of the school. 


We''d like to see Brigham continue to build on the positive momentum she''s built, and we''re far from the first to say as much. 


But as she has acknowledged, she knew going into the job it would only be temporary. 


After a 2008 ethics violation involving the interim president of Mississippi State University, the state commissioner of higher education and a dozen magnolia trees, the College Board decided interim presidents should be automatically disqualified from being chosen for the full-time gig. 


Interim MSU President Vance Watson had authorized $12,333 in landscaping work, via MSU workers, at the home of Commissioner of Higher Education Tom Meredith. At the time, Watson was sitting in the catbird seat for the president''s job. 


Both men paid hefty fines and resigned after it came to light. 


And so, three years later, the College Board is constrained by its own policy, unable to appoint the person who many believe would be the best fit for The W. 


Though she doesn''t have a doctorate or a background in academia, as the College Board often requires, Brigham''s ability to effectively lead the university is unquestionable. 


And so, we begin a search, in hopes of finding someone who closely matches the person we already have.