Private Domain: The LSU Board and its appalling disregard of students

Board of SupsBy Robert Mann

You can forgive Bobby Jindal‘s educational rubber stamp — otherwise known as the LSU Board of Supervisors — for rarely giving much thought to the interests of college students.

After all, that’s not why Jindal gave them their jobs.  It’s clear their job is to carry out Jindal’s plans to dismantle Louisiana’s public health care system. And, judging by the results, they’ve performed very well — that is, if you believe the bottom line of private health care companies is more important than the wellbeing of poor, working families.

Of course, there’s another part of the job that’s a real bother. It involves the affairs of LSU Baton Rouge and the other system campuses.

As you may have read, the Board is currently working to implement a plan to reorganize the governance of the LSU System. That involves, among other things, combining the jobs of Baton Rouge chancellor and system president.

It’s generally a worthy plan and, if done right, should result in a streamlined and more efficient LSU.

But just when we might be prepared to give Jindal some credit for supporting a good idea — leave it to his staff and the LSU Board to screw it up.

First, they rammed through the plan without public notice and in apparent violation of the state’s public meetings law. After Attorney General Buddy Caldwell threatened legal action, the Board waited a few weeks before voting again to approve the plan.

Only then, however, did System President William Jenkins and the Board think to begin consulting the LSU community about the implementation of the reorganization plan. I use the word “consult” if by “consult” you mean “ignore.” Turns out the “Transition Team” that Jenkins and the Board appointed has not one faculty member. That has prompted concern by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

The AAUP cannot force cannot force the Board to bring faculty members into the process. “But when it doesn’t, the public — especially the academic public — becomes aware the degree of respect the University and the administration pay to the principles [of faculty governance],” B. Robert Kreiser, associate secretary for AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance, told the LSU Daily Reveille. “At LSU, it doesn’t seem like much.”

But that’s not the worst of it.  Wouldn’t you think that a large institution created to educate Louisiana’s young people would occasionally consult students about the direction of the institution?

You would think so.

But you would be wrong.

It seems that, for the members of the LSU Board of Supervisors, students are among the  least of their concerns.  Take a look at the membership of Jindal’s LSU Board and you will not see only one member with any apparent education experience.

There are energy executives, hotel executives, attorneys, bank presidents, and a former politician, just to name a few. It seems the only person whose experience is within a country mile of any real education experience — that is, someone who regularly comes into contact with students of some kind — is Lee Mallett, who among his holdings claims the Academy of Training Skills.

That’s it. No one else who, it seems, has spent much, if any, time teaching and interacting with students.

So, it’s no wonder nobody thought to include students in the mix when they began work on the implementation of their reorganization plan.

But something happened along the way to reorganizing the LSU System: The students noticed that they had been left out.

And, in a remarkable editorial in Friday’s Daily Reveille, those students have been begun to fight back.  The paper and its student editors have, effectively, declared war on the LSU Board. Here’s how their editorial began:

“The brass of the LSU System must think the students at this University are stupid.

“They’ve ignored us, spun us and redirected us every time we’ve pointed out the fact that not one student is represented on the group of people making the most important decisions about the university in decades. 

“Many students emailed Interim System President and Chancellor William ‘Bill’ Jenkins asking for more student representation in the reorganization process. Instead of listening to the requests of the people helping to pay his salary, the chancellor sent back a note informing students that the 10 businessmen, doctors and lawyers on the board were “independent and critical thinkers.”

As opposed to the students at your own university, who aren’t independent and critical thinkers, Chancellor? Is that what you’re trying to tell us?

We’re sick of being lied to and being told that students will be represented on a subcommittee dedicated to student experience. Sure, the subcommittee will exist. We guarantee it won’t influence the actual Transition Advisory Team. 

Read the full editorial here.

Perhaps this marks the beginning of an awakening on campus — an awakening to the sad reality that Jindal and his board really don’t care much about students and faculty.

They are running the LSU System as their private domain. But it’s time to take it back, because — despite what they seem to believe — it doesn’t belong to them.

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4 Responses to Private Domain: The LSU Board and its appalling disregard of students

  1. Bob in BR says:

    Bravo to the students at the Reveille. Perhaps if the major newspapers throughout the state would exhibit the same journalistic fearlessness more of our citizens would start to realize just how destructive Jindal has been and continued to be to the well being of Louisiana. The sale of state assets to arranged buyers, veils of secrecy, and disregard for our laws has to end. Maybe the Reveille will spur others to do more. I applaud you, Mr. Mann, Tom Aswell, and others who bring to light the dirty little dealings Jindal prefers we the people not to see. Thanks for your great work.

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  2. JMW70710 says:

    As informative and important as these blogs and editorials are, the words of frustration and warnings reassure the choir, but change little. Unless students and faculty take some concrete action, the words are simply so much sound and fury. The same can be said for the state workers who if not already being pushed out the door, are threatened with the prospect each day. Until and unless citizens start finding it difficult to conduct their day-to-day business, they don’t care that the people in “that” neighborhood can’t get treated or their neighbor can’t afford to send their child to LSU. By the time these changes start having more widespread impact, Jindal and his coterie will be in new jobs in different states and their successors will be the ones held to blame. Doesn’t bode well for the next governor and his appointees.

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  3. Fredster says:

    I’ll say one thing for the Academy of Training Skills: grammar is apparently not one of their high points. From the website:

    ATS Do Not Receive State, Federal, or Parish funds.

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