Why are Louisiana universities so powerless in Baton Rouge?

By Robert Mann

How did it come to this sad state in Louisiana higher education? How could venerable institutions with hundreds of thousands of graduates and more than 200,000 students prove so powerless at the state Capitol? Why have these schools — with their amazing students, brilliant faculty and gifted administrators — been unable to persuade lawmakers to increase their budgets or, at least, guarantee them long-term budget stability?

Long ago, when I worked at the Capitol, I would hear rumblings about trimming LSU’s funding. That talk never went anywhere because of the assumption that if the governor or the Legislature messed with LSU, its students, faculty and alumni would descend upon them with pitchforks waving and torches blazing.

State leaders, fearful of the roar of the LSU tiger, instead gave the school and other state universities ample funding. Then, in 2008, Bobby Jindal became governor and we learned that the Fighting Tigers were really paper tigers.

As Jindal and lawmakers attacked state universities and slashed their funding, nothing much happened in response. The alumni associations and university foundations did not organize their members to descend on the Capitol to fight the cuts. There were some scattered protests by students and faculty, but the cuts happened anyway.

Then-LSU Chancellor Mike Martin spoke up about the way Jindal was hurting his university. Jindal’s staff dressed him down and later ran him out of town. Others lost their jobs for speaking out. Soon, the message was clear: Keep quiet and go along or we’ll fire you or cut your budget even more.

With that, Jindal’s path was largely unimpeded. He and Republican lawmakers intimidated, attacked and undermined higher education leaders during this eight-year reign of terror. They did so because, as they began, few people stood up to their bullying in a forceful and effective way.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

2 thoughts on “Why are Louisiana universities so powerless in Baton Rouge?

  1. Sadly, an educated populace is a threat to those currently in power. It is a threat to all tin-pot dictatorships, that is why corralling the press is so important to despots. It is not neglect, it is disdain for education and teachers who threaten their selfish livelihoods.


  2. We are seeing the folly and danger of requiring political action by our education system. The very fact that they have to “lobby” for funds in competition with more lucretive business lobbies, makes this whole process doomed from the start. Education, from early childhood to advanced degrees, should be funded to guarantee success at every level. Perhaps the enemy is “us, the voters” for not making this a requirement to get our vote. It is hard to fix entrenched and tolerated performance by our elected officials that literally doom us to failure!


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