A possible major transformation in the way LSU is structured has some college officials concerned that change at the university is happening too quickly
The LSU Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss, or even vote, Friday on a proposal to reorganize the LSU System under the flagship campus in Baton Rouge.
The meeting is scheduled just one week after the board merged the system president and Baton Rouge chancellor positions.
The idea to consolidate LSU’s campuses has been around for years. It was revived by the Louisiana Flagship Coalition of statewide business leaders this Spring.
More recently, the Association of Governing Boards consulting group out of Washington, D.C., proposed LSU ditch its current model of separate and autonomous campuses in favor of a consolidated “flagship system.”
The current LSU System is made up of the main LSU campus in Baton Rouge; the LSU Law Center and LSU Agricultural Center, which sit adjacent to the main campus; LSU Health Sciences Centers in New Orleans and Shreveport; 10 public hospitals and more than a dozen clinics across the state; and academic campuses in Alexandria, Eunice and Shreveport.
The different units act, more or less, on their own.
Under the AGB proposal, 14 vice presidents, who’d be responsible for everything from communications to health care delivery, would report to five executive vice presidents including a senior executive vice president and provost with primary responsibility for the main campus and all academic matters.
The executive vice presidents would report to the newly created president, who reports to the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Around LSU on Monday, there was a great deal of uncertainty about what the AGB report means for the future of the university and whether the board is likely to adopt the changes.
LSU board Chairman Hank Danos didn’t return two calls for comment Monday. LSU board member Blake Chatelain, who pushed the board to vote on combining the system president and Baton Rouge campus chancellor, also didn’t return a call seeking comment Monday.
Apart from the board, various LSU stakeholders expressed opinions ranging from indifference to apprehension.
LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center Chancellor Jack Weiss said he was “very concerned” with the perceived loss of autonomy and flexibility the law school would have if the LSU board were to adopt the proposal verbatim.
The report would essentially put the law school under the control of the main campus. Weiss said he wasn’t clear how a new arrangement would affect the law school’s finances, curriculum, enrollment, student affairs and practices related to faculty hiring and promotion.
Weiss argued operating the main campus with close to 30,000 undergraduate students is vastly different from managing a “professional legal school” with 675 students.
Weiss said the increased cooperation among campuses under a consolidated system would likely be a positive. Merging the president and chancellor positions “could potentially be a great advantage,” allowing LSU to speak with one voice, he added.
But Weiss said “a great deal of the success the Law Center has had for the last 35 years is a result of the significant autonomy we’ve exercised over our own academic and other affairs.”
LSU at Eunice Chancellor Bill Nunez welcomed a more tight-knit LSU on Monday, saying his school can benefit politically and academically by sharing resources with other campuses.
LSU Agricultural Center Chancellor Bill Richardson said he is “overall pleased” by the AGB’s proposal which largely leaves his institution unchanged.
But LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope warned that the report hasn’t been debated thoroughly. Lumping all of LSU’s campuses under a one-size-fits-all centralized control structure could do more harm than good to institutions that have needs distinct from other units, he added.
Cope also questioned who would be called on to fill all of the 14 vice presidents positions, and whether they will be filled by former staffers of Gov. Bobby Jindal as the governor tries to find soft landings for his people. “This just has the feel of the old corporate takeover,” Cope said.
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