To: LSU President F. King Alexander
From: Robert Mann
Re: A Bold Strategy for Restoring LSU’s funding
It’s time to shake up LSU’s lobbying strategy. Persuading legislators with facts is hard work. Instead, it’s time to play politics like the contact sport it is. That means getting our football team into the game.
Our chronic financial woes have hobbled the school. With the election of Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards, however, there is hope. Unlike Gov. Bobby Jindal, Edwards understands the value of higher education. As a legislator, he was a friend to college students. Edwards has promised to reverse the cuts and reinvest in schools like LSU.
That said, persuading legislators to restore hundreds of millions to our colleges will be difficult, if not impossible. The new governor must also close a budget shortfall anticipated to be as much as $700 million in the coming fiscal year.
Your recent strategy of telling the hard truth to students, faculty and the public – that budget cuts might force LSU to close for an academic year – was bold and effective. It might work again, but that strategy is not sustainable. Eventually, you will become “Chicken Little.” If you continue to warn of the sky’s collapse and legislators narrowly avert disaster each time, your credibility will suffer; your apocalyptic warnings will wear thin.
You need a new, bold strategy. My idea may seem unconventional at first, but I hope to persuade you of its wisdom.
In previous years, you have cajoled legislators by giving them information about LSU’s value to the state. I don’t have to tell you that approach is challenging. Only 21 percent of Louisianians have graduated college. Many legislators and their constituents do not understand the importance of higher education to the state’s future.
Lobbying legislators with facts might eventually work. I believe, however, there is a more effective way to sway lawmakers. We have on our campus enormous, untapped power and influence. We should use it. What I mean is this: Instead of lobbying lawmakers, you must lobby our coaches and football players.
If star players could be persuaded to demand greater funding for our school, the public would listen and respond. Better yet, if your lobbyists could persuade the football team to threaten a strike until the governor and legislators fully fund the university, we could achieve transformational change.
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