Board chooses new university president

Presidential candidate Kenneth Kitts gives the audience a personal approach to his speech. Kitts told of his hometown and his family during his presentation Oct. 16.

The board of trustees announced its pick for the next university president Nov. 5, after more than four hours of closed session deliberation that spanned two days.

Kenneth Kitts, current provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke accepted the board’s offer Nov. 7.

The board voted 8-0 in favor of hiring Kitts. Trustee Marcus Maples was not present.

“All of the candidates were highly qualified, but I kept coming back to the importance of the enrollment plan and student retention,” said President Pro Tempore of the board Marty Abroms. “I think Ken Kitts had the best ability to work on the retention factors that will affect our enrollment.”

During the search, more than 20 university needs were identified, and the candidates were compared on how they could best fill those needs, said trustee and Presidential Search Committee Chairman Joel Anderson.

The needs include fundraising, developing more student-centered marketing and matching the courses offered with student needs, Anderson said.

“We tried to take each one of the candidates and see where they ranked in each particular area,” he said. “There was never a case where one candidate rose way above the others, but some creeps started to happen and it just seemed to be a little more consistency in Kenneth Kitts.”

The board cannot vote formally or informally, or discuss job qualifications in closed session, according to Alabama law.

But, it is allowed to meet privately under the good name and character clause of the Alabama Open Meetings Act.

Abroms said he contacted Wheless Partners, the firm that conducted the presidential search, during the closed session as it could provide trustees with more information about the candidates.

He said the search firm discussed a range of compensation with the candidates, and he expects the position salary will increase.

“It’ll be competitive with other colleges in our peer group,” he said. “It may be a bit more (than the current salary), but it’ll be in that general range.”

The current salary is approximately $250,000.

The board looks to replace William Cale who announced his retirement via email to faculty and staff in March.

Until a permanent president takes office, former Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost John Thornell fills the position as interim president. Cale remains at UNA in a consulting role as president emeritus through Dec. 31. Both Cale and Thornell retain the full compensation of the presidency, which is $20,909 per month, according to the university spending website.

Anderson said he expects negotiations with Kitts will begin within the next week.

Abroms said Kitts should arrive toward the end of March or the beginning of April 2015, as long as a salary agreement is reached and the employment contract is finalized.