So, LSU finally has a new president, but has it lost its soul?
I’m sure President King Alexander is a nice man and a decent leader — although some who know him well would strongly disagree.
But this isn’t about just King Alexander. It’s about a university
community that has allowed a governor to devastate its budget, diminish its reputation and damage its national ranking. It’s about a governor who installed a group of “leaders” — the LSU Board of Supervisors — whose actions demonstrate that they care not a whit about the university, its students, faculty and staff.
It’s about the LSU Alumni Association and other groups supporting the university who have stood by silently — holding their crawfish boils and pep rallies for the football team — while their “beloved” university is slowly being destroyed.
As I discussed in a recent column in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the so-called leaders on the LSU board are slavishly loyal to Gov. Bobby Jindal. It’s his interests and his wishes that clearly remain paramount in their thoughts as they govern (misrule) this institution.
And now SACS has taken notice — and taken action, handing UVA a sanction just two steps short of pulling the university’s accreditation.
So, if SACS thinks the situation at UVA was appalling — the summary firing of one senior official — wait until they consider LSU. Just in the past year, Jindal and his board have fired or forced out: System President John Lombardi, General Counsel Raymond Lamonica and LSU Health System head Fred Cerise.
And then there’s the stampede of senior officials who have left — Chancellor Mike Martin, Vice Provost Katrice Albert, Vice Chancellor and CFO Eric Monday, Business School Dean Eli Jones, and Dean of the College of Science Kevin Carman.
SACS has already taken notice of the chaos at LSU, recently sending the school a letter which basically said, We have no idea who is in charge of your university.
Jindal and his Board of Supervisors are on the verge of ruining LSU’s reputation. So, where’s the outrage? When will the Baton Rouge-area legislative delegation muster the courage to challenge Jindal’s misrule at LSU? When’s the last time you heard any legislator within the shadow of LSU criticize or question Jindal’s conduct regarding LSU?
According to a remarkable story today by Associated Press correspondent Melinda Deslatte, “The LSU governing board’s decision to merge two of the system’s top jobs has raised concerns from the Georgia-based organization that accredits Southern colleges, which is pressing for more details about the changes.”
The Baton Rouge Advocate has revealed just how much Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s aides control LSU.
According to a front-page story in Sunday’s edition, LSU officials outsourced to Jindal’s aides the decision about whether to give the media public records about recent health care cuts. Jindal’s spokesman had previously denied that the Jindal administration had been involved in LSU’s decision to reject the public records request of journalist and blogger Tom Aswell of Louisiana Voice.
Emails obtained by the newspaper, however, reveal that the decision was, in fact, crafted in the governor’s office, not at the LSU System Office.
As the growing list of expelled LSU administrators attests, there’s no doubt that Gov. Bobby Jindal controls the LSU System.
In recent months, his Board of Supervisors has fired: President John Lombardi, Health chief Fred Cerise, and the CEO of the LSU system‘s Health Care Services Division, Dr. Roxane Townsend. Jindal and his board have also chased off Chancellor Mike Martin, who made no secret of his disgust with the involvement of the governor’s office in LSU’s affairs. Then, came LSU General Counsel Ray Lamonica, forced to resign by Jindal’s LSU board appointees.
Other personnel changes are widely rumored. And, perhaps, still to come — the coup de grâce: the widely anticipated appointment of Stephen Moret, Jindal’s close friend and the Louisiana Economic Development secretary, as LSU’s president.
No doubt about it, Jindal is running LSU to his liking.
“So what?” you might ask. What’s the harm if the governor is intimately involved in LSU’s day-to-day affairs? Why should it matter if the LSU Board of Supervisors is not acting independently, but merely as Jindal’s rubber stamp? (Isn’t that what Huey Long gave us back in the 1930s?) Why does any of this matter?
One word: accreditation.
Accreditation, as defined by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, “is a process of external quality review created and used by higher education to scrutinize colleges, universities and programs for quality assurance and quality improvement.”
More practically, the federal government uses accreditation to “assure the quality of institutions and programs for which the government provides federal aid to students.” Losing accreditation — or being deemed non-compliant in a major category — would be very harmful or even deadly for LSU and its budget. If it lost federal student aid, the university would not survive.
A skeptical person might be forgiven for suspecting that the LSU Board of Supervisors — now packed with appointees of Gov. Bobby Jindal — is moving toward giving Jindal pal and Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret a new job.
That would be president of the LSU System.
First, there was interim LSU President William Jenkins telling the Baton Rouge Rotary Club on Monday that the system president probably shouldn’t be a person with a PhD. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Jenkins suggested that perhaps LSU needs a “‘nontraditional’ president who has a second-in-command that is comfortable with overseeing the campus.”