ITTA BENA — Mississippi Valley State University president Donna Oliver shouldn’t be affected by her unsuccessful bid for a college presidency in another state, Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds said.
“The fact of the matter is that there are openings all the time, and leaders are always being sought out, so I don’t see this having a big impact on Dr. Oliver,” Bounds told The Clarion-Ledger.
Oliver has been at Valley since 2009. She was one of three finalists to lead West Virginia State University, but officials announced last week that she didn’t get the job.
Cleavon Smith, president of the Valley alumni chapter in Tupelo, said he doesn’t think Oliver’s attempt to get another job will affect her ability to lead.
“I think she’s a good leader. You have those that think she’s not a good leader and will continue to feel that way,” Smith said.
Enrollment at Valley dropped 4.2 percent from 2010 to 2011, while enrollment at Mississippi’s seven other public universities increased 5.2 percent.
In November, 14 of 17 members of Valley’s Faculty Senate issued no-confidence vote, blaming Oliver for a decline in enrollment, lack of faculty pay raises, low faculty morale and an anemic effort to raise private money. Oliver said then that the vote wasn’t representative of the more than 120 faculty members.
Bounds said it’s not unusual for schools’ top leaders to be on the lookout for other opportunities.
“These are very public figures,” Bounds said. “Lots of people are interested in who’s leading an institution. You typically have so many more constituencies interested in a university leadership position than the normal private sector job.”
Oliver’s $192,937-per-year contract at Valley expires Dec. 31. West Virginia State’s current president makes $167,444.
The state College Board in Mississippi has conducted 15 presidential searches since 2000, including the one that resulted in Oliver’s hiring.
The average length of service for current public university leaders in Mississippi is 3.34 years. The national average is 6.7 years, according to the American Council on Education. Nationwide, 48 percent of public institution presidents have served in their current position five years or fewer.