JSU president interviews for position at rival HBCU

Jackson State University President Ronald Mason Jr. will interview today for the top spot at one of JSU’s rival schools.

But Mason says he wasn’t looking for a new job when the Southern University System’s presidency came open.

“They came recruiting,” he said Monday.

Mason, 57, said he agreed to put his name in the hat because he wants to “do the most good for the most people.”

He’s been at JSU – Mississippi’s largest historically black university – for 10 years.

“I believe in HBCUs, and I believe we need strong ones for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “Bottom line question is where can that cause best be served?”

JSU and Southern are among the nation’s largest HBCUs. The 13,000-student Southern University System oversees three academic campuses in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport, a law school and an agricultural center.

Mason came to JSU from New Orleans, where he had been founder and executive director of the National Center for the Urban Community at Tulane and Xavier universities.

Katara Williams, spokeswoman for the Southern University System, said a final decision on the job will not be made today because one of the candidates had a scheduling conflict.

“Once all of the candidates are interviewed, a recommendation will be made to the board,” she said.

The system’s governing board has anticipated naming a president by the end of the month. Multiple attempts to reach the search committee’s co-chairmen were unsuccessful Monday.

“How it will all end up I honestly cannot say,” Mason said of his chances.

Mason faces competition from outgoing Norfolk State University President Carolyn Meyers, U.S. Department of Education senior adviser Leonard Haynes III, former Alabama A&M President Robert Jennings, Southeastern Louisiana University Vice President for Student Affairs Marvin Yates and former Shaw University President Clarence Newsome.

The system released the applicants’ names because of the Louisiana Public Records Law.

Mason is paid $275,500 a year – $50,000 of which comes from the Jackson State University Foundation. His contract with the state was last renewed in 2007 and runs through June 2011.

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