By Robert Mann
“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Might I suggest a New Year’s resolution for the leaders of Louisiana’s colleges and universities? Not only for the presidents and chancellors, but also the provosts, deans, associate deans and senior faculty members?
Let’s resolve to raise our voices in boisterous, sustained opposition to the deep budget cuts that Gov. Bobby Jindal will undoubtedly propose to address the anticipated $1.4 billion budget shortfall for fiscal year 2016.
Briefly, it appeared the worst cuts were over. Now, we learn that the cruelest year of Jindal’s tenure as governor is ahead. Despite his boasting of an economic miracle, Jindal cannot balance a budget without massive infusions of one-time money and deep cuts to higher education and health care. The Jindal economy is apparently one in which low unemployment and robust economic activity produces little in the way of tax revenue to educate our children, maintain our roads and bridges and support health insurance for the working poor.
Because most of the state’s budget is constitutionally protected from deep budget cuts, higher education is particularly exposed. Every other area of state government is seemingly more important than that which educates our young people and gives them an opportunity for a more prosperous life.
Through it all, from the first day when Jindal and his legislative pawns began hacking away at higher education, most leaders at the state’s universities kept silent. At LSU, Jindal and his Board of Supervisors fired or chased off those brave souls who did speak out. Then, Jindal and his staff spent several years trying to rid the state of its higher education commissioner, Jim Purcell, who was particularly outspoken about the cuts. They finally succeeded last March.
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