Jindal changing LSU, role
BY MARK BALLARD
Capitol news bureau
June 15, 2013
Over the past few months — since Gov. Bobby Jindal’s appointees became the majority on the LSU Board of Supervisors — a dozen or so LSU leaders have left.
They include high-profile executives and top administrators, well-known only in the academic community.
It started in April with the firing of LSU System President John Lombardi and, as weeks passed, included the resignation of LSU Chancellor Mike Martin and the reassignment of the leader of LSU hospitals, Fred Cerise. Ray Lamonica, the LSU system’s top lawyer, was visited by board members on Sept. 6 and suddenly resigned.
Some in the LSU community voice anger.
“Anybody says anything negative about what’s going on: well, coo-yon, that doesn’t happen. Not in Louisiana. Not with Bobby Jindal. Boop, you’re gone,” said former LSU board member Anthony G. Falterman, using the Cajun slang word for “you’re being foolish.”
In May, before many of the terminations took place, The Chronicle of Higher Education, a respected national trade publication, listed the names of some of the targeted administrators who have since left. The Louisiana governor’s office then, according to the piece, “did not respond to the specific allegations of pressuring Mr. Lombardi or broader charges of micromanagement.”
Surely, purging LSU’s old guard is some early step in some multi-stepped grand plan that will lead to a new flagship university. So, what is Jindal’s vision for LSU?
Jindal said Friday LSU needs to focus on research and study areas where it can compete nationally and internationally. Other institutions, both private and public, across the country are developing “unique areas of excellence,” he said, and LSU needs to do the same to compete.
“They have got to identify those areas where they are strong, develop those areas that are critical to their communities,” Jindal said.
LSU would continue to offer a wide variety of degrees and diverse academic programs, but the board also would focus its attention and resources on specific programs, he said.
To name one example, LSU historically has very strong engineering programs, Jindal said.
The governor said he also backs consolidating into one job the LSU System president with the chancellor of LSU’s Baton Rouge campus. Such a merging would save money and prompt the now-competing LSU agencies to work closer together, he said.
The Republican Party of Louisiana last week sent its supporters an essay by state Sen. Conrad Appel III, a Metairie Republican who chairs the state Senate Education committee. He argued that years of petrodollars allowed LSU and other public universities to grow pell-mell. Continuing budget cuts present an opportunity to correct structural deficiencies, he wrote.
“The challenge is to reconfigure and realign, within realistic budgetary expectations, Louisiana’s post-secondary education structure in a manner consistent with each of the institutions’ and systems’ appropriately defined role, scope, and mission,” Appel wrote.
But former board member Alvin E. Kimble, a Baton Rouge businessman, criticized Jindal for the mechanics — the purges and politics — being used. For instance, Kimble said Jindal’s supporters blindsided him on the eve of a vote that had been expected to make him chairman.
“They didn’t have enough honor to call me up and say, ‘Look we don’t think you should be chairman and these are our reasons why.’ I mean, that’s what men do,” said Kimble, who left the LSU Board in June.
Next year, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools begins reviewing LSU for the all-important accreditation, due in 2014. At least one criterion is whether the governing board “is free from undue influence from political, religious or other external bodies and protects the institution from such influence.”
“Some people are saying it’ll take a whole generation to recover from the Jindal administration. But I think it’s a minimum 10, 15 years to recover from what he has done to higher education,” said Kimble, a Republican who was appointed to the LSU Board by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
Jindal makes no apologies. He countered:
“It’s absolutely critical for the future of our state that LSU does well. I think it’s important as governor that we do everything that we can to make sure they achieve excellence.”
Mark Ballard is editor of The Advocate Capitol news bureau. His email address is email@example.com.