LSU President Bill Jenkins said today that finding a new LSU system president might be tough.
My guess is that’s music to Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s ear. If Jenkins is correct and the search committee drills a dry hole, then won’t it be easier for Jindal to install his own candidate?
I’m sure there are several former state legislators who would love the football tickets, er, the challenges that come with the lofty position. But foisting a total political hack on a state agency is one thing if you’re trying to fill a job at the Revenue Department. It’s an entirely different matter if you’re talking about LSU — even if Jindal cares little about the institution, per se.
But never fear. Rumors abound that this candidate may already have been chosen. One candidate generating considerable buzz is Louisiana Economic Development chief Stephen Moret. Moret is, no doubt, a fine guy and an able manager. He might make a decent system president.
And he cares about the institution. He was, after all, an LSU student body president.
But while politics has always played a large role at LSU, a governor giving the top job to a hand-picked political intimate like Moret would complete the politicization of LSU. (Huey Long without the financial support?)
People in the know understand that former Chancellor Mike Martin left town largely because the Governor’s Office made the situation quite intolerable for him (he wasn’t hesitant to share this view with friends, and some acquaintances, before departing for Colorado.)
Of course, having the governor’s best friend in charge of LSU could be a very good thing for the university. It might, in fact, be the first time in his five years as governor that Jindal actually had a reason to truly help the campus succeed.
But it could also send a strong signal to staff, administration and non-tenured faculty that opposition to the governor comes with a price. That could not only be chilling for current employees; it might make it impossible to hire good new faculty and staff if the word is out that the governor is the one really running LSU.
Now that Jindal has no opportunity for national office for a few years, don’t be surprised if he expresses renewed interest in the large university down the street from his sometimes home.
In some ways, that might be helpful for LSU. But it could just make the university one more repository for the governor’s political friends.