Gazette opinion: Take closer look at chancellor candidates

2014-04-25T00:00:00Z 2014-04-25T06:19:04Z Gazette opinion: Take closer look at chancellor candidates The Billings Gazette
April 25, 2014 12:00 am

Once again, a journalist has told the community more about a candidate for public office than they could get from “authorities.”

Turns out, one of the finalists to replace Montana State University Billings Chancellor Rolf Groseth is a man who resigned as president of a small West Texas university less than six months ago. Ricardo Maestas suddenly resigned as president of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, in November after four years on the job. Neither the university nor Maestas provided any public explanation for his resignation. Maestas immediately was appointed as special assistant to Brian McCall, head of the Texas State University system. He still holds the special assistant position.

None of this came up during Maestas’ public visit to the MSUB campus on Monday.

However, Gazette reporter Zach Benoit easily found the resignation reports in a Google search.

The search committee chairman’s response to this revelation is very disturbing. When the reporter informed Terry Leist about Maestas’ resignation, the chairman said that all candidates had been investigated by the recruiting firm hired by MSUB. Leist, Montana State University vice president for administration and finance, said the committee trusts the firm’s work and feels confident in moving forward.

We certainly hope the other 17 members of the committee aren’t simply trusting the head hunter’s work.

According to news reports in The Texas Tribune, Maestas resigned the same week he fired the entire football coaching staff.

A year earlier, in November 2012, a story in The New York Times described complaints against Sul Ross leadership. According to the Times, the concerns included a 10 percent drop in enrollment between 2010 and 2011 and complaints that the administration wasn’t responsive to the decrease. Enrollment at Sul Ross had stayed about 2,000 for the previous decade.

The enrollment drop was especially concerning because the state has set minimum enrollment limits and was eliminating programs that had fewer students. Sul Ross had lost 18 programs and the community lost jobs from its largest employer.

Last year, the Sul Ross football team’s roster shrank from 100 players to about 45 by the end of the season. Parents complained about the way players were treated by the coaching staff.

None of this proves Maestas did anything wrong. But this is information that search committee needs to know. This is information the search committee should have known before it selected four finalists for the top job at MSUB.

So far, Benoit’s checks of the other three finalists have turned up no sudden, unexplained resignations or other concerns.

We call on all members of the search committee to diligently question all the candidates’ records. Be sure that the person recommended to succeed Groseth is a proven leader who will build up MSUB for the benefit of its students and state.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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