Thomas announced as finalist in Tuskegee University President search

Nicholas Ebelhack, editor-in-chief

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Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas has been listed as a finalist in another university’s search for a new president, this time at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala. as of last Friday.

According to a news release from Tuskegee University’s office of communications, public relations and marketing, Thomas is among two finalists that have been recommended by the university’s Board of Trustees and Presidential Search Committee.

The news comes after Boise State University announced that Thomas would be visiting their campus as well as a finalist in their search for their next president. Thomas visited Boise State on April 26.

According to Vice Chair of the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees Norma Clayton, the talent offered by both Thomas and his fellow finalist, Wagner college Provost Lily McNair, is appreciated in their search.

“In today’s higher education environment, recruiting candidates of such extraordinary caliber like Dr. McNair and Dr. Thomas required our committee to work both deliberatively and confidentially,” Clayton said.

Thomas, after Boise State University’s public announcement of his candidacy, released a statement in regards to his current job search.

“Because of my 10-year tenure as president and provost at Western Illinois University, which has been the most rewarding of my career, I have recently been contacted by search firms and nominated for a number of positions,” Thomas said. “This is clearly an indication of a national respect for Western and its accomplishments, even during these difficult times.”

Those difficult times haven’t been unnoticed. In his interview at Boise State University, Thomas was asked by Boise State Associate Professor of History Leslie Madsen-Brooks about unrest at Western regarding the recent strike authorization vote from the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100 chapter and the faculty vote of no confidence in Western’s administration.

“We went two years without receiving a state appropriated budget, and then we finally got a budget in the third year back in July, and it was 10 percent less than what is was the previous year,” Thomas replied, giving background to Western’s recent financial struggles.

Thomas then continued to speak on the Western’s financial matters over the last few years, which he said resulted in the subsequent votes of no confidence and a strike authorization.

“We have been put into a predicament, so what do you do, do you keep your university or do you fold, and my board encouraged me to keep the university and that’s what we did,” Thomas said. “There was a vote of no confidence in the entire administration but not just me, no one was named, which was symbolic to try and get the contract approved, and recently that had a vote to strike, but that hasn’t happened yet and now we are just that close getting an agreement.”

Tuskegee University is expected to vote on it’s next president on May 11, and intends to release a public statement that same day with it’s decision.

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