Six years too late, the LSU Board finally speaks up

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By Robert Mann

Forgive me if I sound like the rooster who thought the sun rose because he crowed. But I wonder if Saturday’s unusual joint statement by the LSU Board of Supervisors had anything at all to do with my Friday NOLA.com column, which called on the next governor to demand its members’ resignations for their failure to defend the university from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s devastating budget cuts?

The LSU Board rarely issues joint statements on a Saturday, so I’m guessing its members were more than a little irked by my column and, also, got a little heat from true LSU supporters who wonder why they are so afraid to rebuke Jindal and his budget policies, which threaten the very existence of the university.

Perhaps some of their friends and colleagues started asking, What’s up? Why are you so fearful of Jindal? Isn’t the future of LSU worth more than your football tickets and scholarships?

Whatever the case, board Chair Ann Duplessis issued the following statement on behalf of her colleagues, which, strangely, is not on the LSU Board’s website (as of 3:30 p.m. Saturday).

The entire LSU Board of Supervisors stands solidly with President King Alexander, students, the entire higher education community and concerned citizens in expressing our collective anxiety and concern relative to the potentially devastating cuts facing our colleges and universities starting July 1.  On March 20, the LSU Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in support of stopping these crippling cuts and for the autonomy to operate our institutions to the benefit of our valued students and our state (www.lsusystem.edu).  Prior to the board’s resolution, our members met with the Governor and his staff, and individually with legislators and business leaders, in advocating for restoration of funding and in support of solutions that will ensure a stable, growing source of funding for higher education and remove the funding uncertainty and volatility experienced over the past several years.   Our efforts will continue until we get a satisfactory resolution, as anything less is simply unacceptable for the state’s flagship university.

We recognize that the national recession and changes in the state’s revenue forecast required everyone to tighten their belts and adopt efficiencies and cost-saving practices.  LSU is leaner and more nimble as a result, while still out-performing our peers on many measures.  Indeed, we have undergone more changes in the past two years than ever before, adopting recommendations made by a panel of experts with input from the LSU staff and faculty.  However, our efforts are only effective when coupled with a stable, reliable source of state support.  Without such, our performance will suffer and the value of an LSU degree will only deteriorate.

All 16 members of the Board of Supervisors representing the entire state of Louisiana are united in our call for restoration of funding and we will continue to use our collective experience and ability to access key policy makers to advance LSU’s position.  Individually, members of the LSU Board of Supervisors are not interested in seeking the media spotlight, but rather we are investing our time and energy in seeking solutions that will make a difference for LSU and its students.   President Alexander as our chosen leader is empowered to publicly advocate our collective position and he has the full faith and support of our board as he represents all of LSU in efforts to reverse these projected cuts.

Anxiety and concern??

Gents and lady, I hate to tell you this, but anxiety and concern are emotions you should have expressed six years ago, when state appropriations made up about 60 percent of the school’s budget. Today, it’s 13 percent. If Jindal’s additional budget cuts take effect, that number will plummet to 2 percent and the university will cease to exist.

Anxiety and concern is what I feel as I’m teaching my teenager daughter to drive.

The proper responses to what Jindal and the legislature are doing to LSU is fury, outrage and disgust.

As for your endorsement of Alexander, I’m certain he is profoundly gratified by your bold, courageous expression of support for his position and for your “anxiety and concern.”

If this is what passes for leadership — or dissent — in the Jindal administration, God help us all. The situation is more dire than I imagined.

Loyal to Jindal, not students, LSU’s board must go

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By Robert Mann

Next January, after taking his oath of office and calling a special session to clean up Gov. Bobby Jindal’s fiscal mess, our next governor should immediately demand the resignation of every member of the LSU Board of Supervisors.

Appointed by Jindal, the current board not only is unrepresentative of the state (14 wealthy white men and one black woman); its members also abdicated their duty to protect the school. They were silent as mice as Jindal pillaged LSU’s budget.

Like state Education Superintendent John White and some courageous members of the state’s Board of Elementary & Secondary Education, they could have protested Jindal’s misguided policies or publicly challenged his destructive acts. They might have threatened to resign in unison. They did none of that — and for their unforgivable omissions, they should go. All of them.

President F. King Alexander has waged a valiant fight for LSU’s future, as have University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley and some other college leaders. Alexander also has rightly prodded students to protest the threatened $600 million in higher education budget cuts. “Sometimes you don’t have to be so polite,” he told students earlier this month.

This past week at the Baton Rouge Press Club, Alexander repeated that admonition. So I tossed out this notion to him: It’s good for students to lobby legislators, many who are finally willing to raise taxes for higher education but whose legislation Jindal will probably veto. You have 15 bosses (the LSU board) who are close to Jindal. Why don’t they stop being so subservient and urge the governor to do more for higher education?

In response, Alexander shared an astonishing story that underscores my argument that this group must go. Alexander said that after he described the dire budgetary situation at the board’s January meeting, some alarmed members sought an appointment with Jindal. An LSU spokesperson told me that board members Ann Duplessis, James Moore, Raymond Lasseigne, Rolfe McCollister and Blake Chatelain joined Alexander for a meeting with Jindal on Feb. 4.

On its face, that’s a positive development. But step back for a moment and consider this disturbing scene: After five years of deep, damaging cuts, these board members apparently did not understand the serious threat to the university until Alexander made what one reporter described as an “impassioned speech — detailing the threat with campuses facing 40 percent reductions in state funding.”

Do they read the papers? Did they assume that Jindal also does not keep abreast of the news? I’m glad they privately urged Jindal to stop the cuts, but aren’t they five years too late? Speaking of little and late, good luck finding any LSU board member who has publicly condemned the looming demolition of Louisiana higher education.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Gov. Jindal, it’s time to resign

By Robert Mann

Gov. Jindal, it’s time to quit. Not your campaign for the White House, although I think that would be wise. I’m mean that you should resign the governor’s job that has lost your attention and consumes little of your energy.

These are dangerous times, and Louisiana needs a full-time governor completely focused on our challenges. It’s not only our budget crisis, but also other serious problems that still require an active governor’s attention in the final year of his term.

You’re rarely in Louisiana these days. When you are home, you’re more interested in writing op-eds for out-of-state newspapers.

Many years ago, when asked if you were running for president, you would respond, “I have the job I want.” Some of us doubted you then. Now, everyone knows you have a job you don’t want.

So, just resign. Hand over the office to Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who wants your job and would surely devote himself to Louisiana’s problems during what’s left of your term.

There’s precedence for this, you know. In 1996, Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., was running for the Republican presidential nomination. He was also majority leader of the U.S. Senate. Eventually, he knew he could not run for president, fulfill his Senate duties and effectively represent his Kansas constituents. Something had to give. Like you, he wanted the White House more than his current job.

So, Dole resigned. His White House bid, he said, was “not merely about obtaining office. It’s about fundamental things, consequential things, things that are real. My campaign is about telling the truth, it’s about doing what is right, it’s about electing a president who’s not attracted to the glories of the office, but rather to its difficulties.” As his campaign began “in earnest,” Dole said, “it is my obligation … to leave behind all the trappings of power, all comfort and all security.”

Dole could have continued serving as majority leader while he ran for president. Then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson had done so in 1960. But Dole quit. “I will then stand before you without office or authority, a private citizen,” he said, “an American, just a man.”

It’s not that you cannot do the job of governor. You’re smart. You have plenty of valuable experience at various levels of government. You’ve just never applied your considerable skills and intelligence to dealing with our enormous problems.

We have some of the nation’s highest poverty and worst health outcomes and you’ve done little to address them. Baton Rouge, your hometown, has the nation’s second-highest HIV rate (New Orleans is fourth), but you’ve done nothing to address that crisis. What you have done is hollow out higher education and inject needless confusion and rancor into the state’s elementary and secondary education system. Meanwhile, the state’s health care system is a fractured, dysfunctional mess under your privatization schemes. Now, you’ve outsourced the state’s tax policy to Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Louisiana’s higher education leaders are finally fighting

Louisiana higher education leaders listen on Wednesday night as LSU student pose question about threatened budget cuts.
Louisiana higher education leaders listen on Wednesday night as LSU student pose question about threatened budget cuts.

By Robert Mann

Louisiana’s higher education leaders are finally fighting — and aggressively so — to stop the $608 million in proposed state budget cuts that would devastate their institutions.

At a forum on Wednesday night, sponsored by several LSU student groups at the Manship School’s Journalism Building, LSU President F. King Alexander and University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley were surprisingly blunt.

Joined by Jan Moller of the Louisiana Budget Project, the three panelists not only described the doomsday scenarios that await higher education if Gov. Bobby Jindal and legislators don’t raise taxes; they also prodded students to the kind of activism and protests that the state’s college campuses have rarely seen.

“Be annoying,” Alexander told the students. “Sometimes you don’t have to be so polite. This is the time you need to fight for your fellow students.”

Woodley urged students to remind legislators that “a tuition hike is a tax hike.” Like Alexander, she also encouraged students to storm the state Capitol. “They need to see your faces,” she said. “They need to hear from you. You need to let your voice be heard.”

Alexander went beyond vaguely urging student activism to giving students specific ideas. “I’d set up a report card and have a big press conference and I’d grade [legislators],” he said. “Grade them on their votes.”

Alexander said students must hold accountable those lawmakers who are unwilling to generate the revenue to save higher education. “They expect you to be graded,” he said. “Grade ‘em back. They may not like an F, but they earned it.” Continue reading

Secret search: LSU Foundation did not advertise position before hiring Moret

Stephen Moret
Stephen Moret

By Robert Mann

The LSU Foundation hired its new CEO this week after a search that a foundation spokesperson said did not include a formal job announcement.

The Foundation announced Monday it had hired Stephen Moret, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s secretary of economic development, to serve as president and CEO.

“That’s correct,” Foundation spokesperson Sara Crow said, when asked if there was no formal advertisement for the position. “The Association of Governing Boards, which has worked closely with our Board of Directors over the past year, was engaged to assist in the search to identify qualified candidates.”

I wonder how long it took this Association of Governing Boards to discover the existence of Moret, one of the more prominent members of Jindal’s cabinet and a person known to have once been angling for the LSU president’s job?

It’s a good thing this Association of Governing Boards came to the rescue or it’s doubtful Moret’s existence and whereabouts could have been determined.

One question left unanswered by this week’s announcement about Moret’s hire is whether he will be promoted to a vice president’s position, which would oversee all of the LSU foundations.

“If the LSU Board of Supervisors ultimately creates the position of LSU vice president for university advancement,” Crow said, “Stephen will likely be considered a candidate to serve in that capacity. In regard to establishing such a position and approving an individual to serve in that capacity, I believe that would be a matter for the LSU Board of Supervisors to consider.”

Postscript: I spoke at length with LSU President F. King Alexander this afternoon. He says he has no plans to create a formal position of vice president for university advancement. However, he said, the various LSU-affiliated foundations will report to Moret. 

In a separate email exchange, Alexander told me the following: 

“The position was announced through the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and at their annual meeting in early January.  It was funded entirely through the Foundation and an external consultant who has worked with improving the effectiveness and strategic direction of the Foundation was hired to encourage applicants throughout the country. Of the numerous people they identified, probably around 13, maybe only one or two were in a position to have their names released.  They only would talk to us if it didn’t get back to their current institution. ”    

Does Heather Mac Donald believe blacks need to whiten up their acts?

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By Robert Mann

What should we do about the alarming trend of unwed mothers in the United States? Don’t ask Heather Mac Donald, a lawyer/journalist who writes for New York’s City Journal. Despite devoting much of her career to decrying a problem that she argues is the chief reason for crime in the United States, she’s really has nothing.

Mac Donald spoke Tuesday afternoon and evening at Louisiana State University, programs jointly sponsored by the Manhattan Institute (where Mac Donald is a resident fellow) and the LSU Department of Political Science. I moderated a discussion with Mac Donald at LSU’s Journalism Building on Tuesday afternoon.

I didn’t record Mac Donald’s talk, but she essentially gave her audience a distilled version of what she’s been writing for years, beginning with her 2003 book, Are Cops Racist, an apologia for beleaguered police officers who, Mac Donald argues, are the people in our society most dedicated to the proposition that “black lives matter.”

Here’s a good distillation of Mac Donald’s views from her March 23, 2014, article in National Review,

[O]n Friday, the New York media reported that a 14-year-old boy riding a bus in Brooklyn the previous night had opened fire on the bus and fatally shot an innocent 39-year-old passenger in the head. Did anyone doubt the race of the killer, even though the media did not disclose it? Blacks commit nearly 80 percent of all shootings in New York City, even though they are only 23 percent of the population; whites commit less than 2 percent of all shootings in New York City, though they are 35 percent of the population. The chance that that young bus killer was a model pupil, quietly paying attention in class and not disturbing his fellow students and teacher, is close to zero. (Follow-up stories revealed that the shooter was a member of Bedford Stuyvesant’s Stack Money Goons crew, and had been moved to open fire when three members of the rival Twan Family boarded the bus.)

If the civil-rights industry refuses to acknowledge the behavior that leads to disparate discipline rates, it is even more resistant to confronting the root of both the black school discipline and crime problems. In many urban areas, the black illegitimacy rate is well over 80 percent. Boys growing up without fathers are overwhelmingly more likely to lack self-discipline and the ability to control their anger than boys growing up with married parents. And those behavioral problems show up early. School administrators have been reporting rising violence among ever younger students for years. “We see aggressive behavior from kindergarten up,” Lawrence Jointer, the director of hearings for the Alexandria, Va., school district told the Washington Post in 2012. Student behavior has been worsening over the last four decades, he said. 

None of the federal studies mention or control for single-parent households, of course. Instead, we are supposed to believe that well-meaning teachers, who have spent their entire time in ed school steeped in the doctrine of “white privilege” and who are among the most liberal segments of the workforce, suddenly become bigots once in the classroom and begin arbitrarily suspending pacific black children out of racial bias. Oddly, the civil-rights industry never accuses schools of being biased against boys, even though males are as over-represented among disciplined students as blacks. In this case, there would actually be a colorable basis for making such a bias charge, since teachers are indoctrinated in anti-male ideology throughout ed school. Nevertheless, everyone accepts gender disparities in discipline, and not only because no one gives a damn about males these days. It is simply common sense that boys are more likely to be aggressive and impulsive than girls. Given the black–white crime disparities, it is equally common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive in class as well. 

Mac Donald’s thesis is this: Blacks are a small percentage of the overall population, but they commit most of the crime in the United States. Police who target blacks and engage in racial profiling aren’t part of racist institutions and are clearly not racist themselves. They are passionately dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter. That’s why they spend so much time in those black neighborhoods valiantly fighting black-on-black crime.

The problem, Mac Donald says, is that black women are having too many babies out of wedlock. Black boys are growing up without fathers and becoming criminals. Solve the problem of single mothers in the black community and you’ll solve the crime problem. Oh, and for good measure, allow the police to double down on their highly successful crime-fighting tactics and the problem will get better, too.  Continue reading

Bobby Jindal, LSU President?

By Robert Mann

Could Gov. Bobby Jindal become the next president of LSU? Why not? He’s not going to be president of the United States.

So what can Jindal do once his presidential campaign flames out like a tax increase opposed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry?

Monday’s announcement that Jindal crony and Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret will become president of the LSU Foundation demonstrates that despite having done his best to dismantle the university, Jindal remains firmly in control of the LSU Board of Supervisors and, therefore, every other aspect of the university.

If Jindal and Moret could preside over the near-destruction of the state’s flagship university and still persuade the university to give Moret one of the school’s plum positions, then anything is possible.

Continue reading