The most powerful man in Louisiana and the power he wasted

By Robert Mann

The Baton Rouge Advocate is out today with a puff piece about outgoing LSU President William Jenkins.

LSU President William Jenkins

LSU President William Jenkins

It’s the kind of story that a significant leader usually gets when he departs office, except Jenkins was not just any significant leader.

Coming to LSU on the heels of the LSU Board’s firing of President John Lombardi, Jenkins was arguably the most powerful man in Louisiana.  Except for a live-boy-dead-girl scenario, he was untouchable.

The Board and Gov. Bobby Jindal would never have made a move against him, because firing two presidents in a row would have been disastrous public relations.

Jenkins could say anything he wanted. He could be as bold an advocate for LSU as anyone could imagine. He could challenge his own board in ways that no one before him or after him ever could.  He could have stood up to Jindal and shamed him for the damage he’s done to Louisiana higher education.

And Jindal could not have touched him. He wouldn’t have dared.

He was, without a doubt, the most powerful man in the state of Louisiana.

So, what did Jenkins do with his immense power?

He essentially served as a handmaiden for Jindal and the Board.  He waited for more than half his term to speak out against the budget cuts that are destroying LSU and, then, only half-heartedly. He stood by as the Board fired Dr. Fred Cerise for his apostasy of opposing the privitization of Louisiana’s health care system. When Cerise was called last month to testify before a Senate committee on the hospital cuts and privitization, Jenkins wouldn’t even grant him vacation leave to testify.

Let me be quick to add, as many of you will no doubt remind me, that Jenkins is a fine person who served LSU with distinction for many years and many capacities. That’s certainly true.

But at the university’s most crucial hour, he failed to lead.

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12 Responses to The most powerful man in Louisiana and the power he wasted

  1. JMW70710 says:

    I fully anticipate hearing that Dr. Jenkins will soon be appointed to a highly lucrative position sitting on the board of one of the many private hospital entities that he served so well.

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  2. sterling lejeune says:

    I agree. A good man that chose loyalty to Jindal over doing his job as a trusted leader/advocate for LSU.

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  3. Beaux says:

    Hmm seems like someone has been trying to mimick the style of The Daily Reveille a little too much. No facts, all assumptions, and vitriol aimed at a great servant of the University…par for the course for the ever-classy Bob Mann!

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    • Insider says:

      Why do people refer to Jenkins, Martin, Lombardi or any of them that they happen to favor over the others as “servants of the university”? LSU paid them salaries of $500,000 or more, plus benefits, perks, board memberships, and more. That puts them in 1% territory — masters rather than servants. Is it just a cliche people use so they don’t need to think for themselves, or because they can point to no actual evidence of their favorite having done anything to deserve that salary? I don’t think Jenkins could have played tough and gotten anything from the leges; that’s simply not how Louisiana politics works. By the same token, though, I find it hard to have any respect for any CEO who presides over the drastic defunding, decline, and destruction of the university that they are supposed to be improving, or at least maintaining.

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  4. epoa says:

    Think of Jenkins as the warm-up act for new LSU President F. King Alexander. King will never cross Jindal. He is hand selected in secret to do the Governor’s bidding. And if he wasn’t indebted enough to him for this promotion and big bump in salary he will be holding on to this life raft with all he has as he fights the indictment of all the criminal charges that are surfacing against him and his family. You can read all about this at THUG The Book http://thugthebook.blogspot.com Documents are there you be the judge.

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  5. epoa says:

    Consider Jenkins the warm-up act for new LSU President F. King Alexander. He was hand selected in secret and indebted for a non-tenured professor to get a promotion and a big salary bump like this. And if all that wasn’t enough to secure Jindal’s agenda going forward now King Alexander has a slew of criminal and corruption charges surfacing. This job is his life raft. He will do whatever it takes to keep it and pray that Jindal will protect him. Review the documents and see for yourself the criminal allegations THUG The Book http://thugthebook.blogspot.com

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  6. Barbara Forrest says:

    The Colin Powell of Louisiana.

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    • Insider says:

      That’s a good one! It’s really the opposite of Collin Powell’s misguided actions, though: Jenkins has kept quiet about figurative WMDs that he must know, or at least suspect, are likely to destroy LSU as a public research university. If he had any honor, the minute he retires he would come clean and become a whistle blower regarding who the applicants for his replacement were, what figures are going to appear on those famous blank pages of the hospital privatization contracts, whether the plan is that Stephen Morrett will be installed as the new chancellor-president by the BoS if epoa, who commented earlier and I hope will again, is correct about the allegations coming out of CSU Long Beach and Alexander’s contract is cancelled. Whew! It’s going to be a long hot summer….

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      • Fredster says:

        whether the plan is that Stephen Morrett will be installed as the new chancellor-president by the BoS

        Now that’s enough to induce nausea and vomiting.

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