by koran addo
Capital news bureau
August 21, 2012
Members of a consulting firm helping LSU find a new system president presented the Board of Supervisors with three distinct scenarios Saturday, each spelling out different structural paths the university could take in the future.
Two of the options include consolidating the president and Baton Rouge chancellor positions.
In wide-ranging discussions after the consultants left the seven-hour retreat at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, board members discussed bringing in an advisory panel to oversee LSU’s hospital system, and the possible benefits of bringing the flagship campus, law school and agricultural center under one umbrella.
The Board did not take action on any of those ideas.
Board Chairman Hank Danos said Saturday that the Board would have to make those structural decisions before selecting a new president.
The best-case scenario would be to settle on a path forward before the end of the year.
“We can’t run away for fear of criticism, and we can’t go forward without being thorough,” Danos said.
LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope, who has been critical of the search process for what he says is a lack of faculty input, said after listening to the discussions that he was relieved the board had not settled on a businessman or “nontraditional” candidate to lead LSU.
“People in the university are demoralized,” Cope said, pressing for more input from instructors.
“Until faculty has input … the search won’t have legitimacy,” he added.
LSU has been without a president since late April when the board dismissed John Lombardi on a 12-4 vote.
Lombardi’s firing came just two days after he bluntly accused some members of the state Legislature of trying to create a “superboard” to micromanage how Louisiana’s four college systems spend their money.
LSU board members said Lombardi’s brash behavior hurt their standing with legislators and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Michael Martin, former chancellor of LSU Baton Rouge, walked away on Wednesday from a $500,000 bonus due next year to become the head of the Colorado State University System.
Former LSU System President and Baton Rouge Chancellor William Jenkins was coaxed out of retirement in the spring to fill both vacancies temporarily.
Board members are discussing whether to leave intact or restructure the LSU System’s $3.5 billion network of four university campuses, a law school, two medical schools, 10 hospitals and dozens of outpatient medical clinics.
A catalyst for the discussion was a 25-page analysis by AGB consultants, of Washington, D.C. The report assessed the university’s current structure, compiled from 75 interviews with various LSU stakeholders.
In the first of three scenarios put forth, the consultants said the Board could strengthen the model in which LSU’s campuses in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Alexandria and Eunice operate as distinct institutions.
Under that model, the individual institutions would meet with the president and the system office regularly to solve problems, set annual goals and plan for the future. Additionally, a strong public relations push would help the public understand the system’s “integrity,” its “attunement” to statewide needs and its successes.
The remaining two scenarios took into account the vacant president and Baton Rouge chancellor positions.
In a scenario titled “Natural Evolution,” the Board could merge two positions, ending the “seemingly endemic struggles of system and flagship,” the consultants wrote in their “scenario analysis.”
The Natural Evolution option would allow the president to strengthen coordination among donors, human resource departments and accounting offices, the consultants said. It would also prevent LSU’s leader from ignoring any one campus or playing one against another, they said. Such a merger would likely take a decade to complete, the consultants said.
The final scenario, “Seizing the Opportunity,” was presented as an expedited version of the Natural Evolution option, combining the chancellor and president positions in two years.
The option would quickly end duplication of services, make collaboration among campuses easier and bring an end to the bickering among institutions for declining state dollars.
Since 2008, Jindal and the Legislature have balanced the state’s budget by cutting higher education funding by more than $420 million.
The three scenarios sought to reconcile some of the complaints from faculty, administrators and donors. The consultants said those gripes have lead to low morale and “considerable ill will” at LSU.
Some of the complaints were a loss of freedom to innovate because of increased bureaucracy, a culture where interaction among campuses was not encouraged and a lack campuses having a say in how state dollars were divided up.
The report, which contrasts LSU today with six years ago when AGB first studied the system, says the university has made strides in strategic planning, communicating its goals, and turning around what used to be “severe dysfunction” within the health care system.
LSU Board Chairman Danos said he saw truths in the good and bad within the report.
“We have a quality system with great, passionate people. We are highly motivated to identify and improve on our weaknesses and we’re going to spend time building on our strengths,” Danos said.