LSU Board of Supervisors unexpectedly voted late Friday to merge the positions of LSU system president and chancellor of the LSU Baton Rouge campus and launched a search for someone to fill the job.
The action came after the board heard an Association of Governing Boards’ proposal for reorganization of LSU System entities into one “flagship system” instead of a single “flagship university” on the main campus.
There was no notice at the meeting that a vote would be taken on the change in the top hierarchy of the far-flung LSU system that includes four-year and two-year colleges, a law school, agricultural center and two medical schools as well as a system of 10 public hospitals.
LSU Board member Blake Chatelain pushed for a vote on consolidation of the premier LSU jobs, which are being filled on an interim capacity by former LSU system chief William Jenkins.
Chatelain said the board’s candidate search firm advised that a combined role would create a “more attractive position and open up the candidate field.” The firm of R. William Funk and Associates is helping an LSU search committee identify candidates.
“We need to move on with the search,” said Chatelain, chairman of the LSU presidential search committee.
The board then approved a resolution that accepted the merged job, but postponed further action on the report until a special Nov. 2 meeting.
The resolution noted that the report had been made available to the public. The report became public when two officials of AGB began reviewing the findings at the meeting.
“In my view, this is totally unacceptable,” said Kevin Cope, chairman of LSU Faculty Senate. “We did not even know this resolution was going to be proposed.”
Cope said the action could run afoul of university accrediting agencies because of the lack of input given faculty “on such an enormous change.”
Elimination of the LSU Baton Rouge chancellor job has been discussed for the last several months by the LSU Board which asked ABG to look at a reorganization plan that included that feature.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he supported the folding of the chancellor’s job into that of the system president.
The LSU Board removed system President John Lombardi in April and Jenkins returned to his old job on Lombardi’s departure. Lombardi had been cross-wise with some of Jindal’s higher education policies. In May, LSU Chancellor Michael Martin quit, taking a top higher education job in Colorado. Jenkins assumed that job, too, also on an interim basis.
Under the AGB recommendation, the new position would be an LSU president who oversees all of the LSU’s entities.
The report proposes a restructured and realigned LSU headed by the newly-created president, who reports to the LSU Board of Supervisors, which would maintain constitutional authority over the university. The president would be supported by five executive vice presidents, including a senior executive vice president and provost with primary responsibility for the main campus and all academic matters.
LSU Board general counsel Shelby McKenzie said the board can act on its own to make any and all changes recommended in the report.
“The new LSU says how do we use all of this to best serve the state of Louisiana and its needs,” said Thomas Meredith, one of the report’s authors.
The goal is to establish “a global, competitive 21st century university and one with a much larger footprint,” said co-author Richard Novak.
Among the recommendations is that LSU seek a single accreditation for its campuses, establish a common course numbering system as well as systemwide application form for enrollment although each campus would keep their own admission requirements.
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