Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday he backed the idea of consolidating the LSU System president’s post with the chancellor’s job for the LSU Baton Rouge campus.
“It would be one person,” Jindal said in an interview.
The LSU Board of Supervisors has been discussing whether to fill both of the recently vacated positions or to restructure the administrative functions of the LSU System’s $3.5 billion network that includes four university campuses, a law school, two medical schools, 10 hospitals and dozens of outpatient medical clinics.
“As they are looking for new leadership, I do think it makes sense to combine the positions of system president with chancellor to LSU A&M,” Jindal said. “We have a real opportunity to move LSU forward pretty significantly.”
Speaking of the LSU Board’s search efforts, the governor said, “Now is the right time, before they select that next leader, to unify the position so that the person they recruit, that they hire, will know coming in, the opportunities and the challenges and the expectations for how we want them to perform.”
Consolidation would, in the short term, save millions of dollars by ridding duplication in the central offices, Jindal said. More importantly, he said, consolidation would help the various schools and colleges within LSU to work closer.
“We don’t need to be creating these silos between the different parts of LSU,” Jindal said. “We don’t need to be creating these tensions. Instead, we should be looking for ways to work together.”
For instance, research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center could benefit from collaboration with professors in the life sciences departments at LSU Baton Rouge and scientists at the LSU AgCenter, Jindal said.
LSU’s current structure allows for “turf battles ... rather than thinking what’s best for the overall institution,” Jindal said.
Should the board opt to consolidate LSU leadership, the board would have to consider of different issues, such as how to handle administration of LSU campuses in Alexandria, Eunice and Shreveport. For instance, LSU board members are studying how to better use technology to allow students on other campuses access to course offerings available only on the Baton Rouge campus, he said.
Jindal said his vision for LSU includes the public hospitals run by the system. “Down the road I know the board continues to examine their proper relationship with those hospitals, but yes I think, in the short term I continue to see those hospitals within LSU,” he said.
Reductions in federal funding and changes in the way health care is delivered, requires a fresh look at the state’s unique charity hospital system, he said. “It just makes sense for LSU to reexamine each of its hospitals. What are the best ways to partner with local and private institutions to deliver health care?” Jindal asked.
Academic institutions in Houston and Birmingham generate hundreds of millions of dollars in externally funded medical research and Jindal says that model can be replicated in Louisiana.
LSU has been without a system 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 the Jindal administration.
Michael Martin, former chancellor of LSU Baton Rouge, left his job in August to become the head of the Colorado State University System.
Former LSU System President and LSU Baton Rouge Chancellor William Jenkins was coaxed out of retirement in the spring to fill both vacancies temporarily.
The LSU board is reviewing 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.
The report put forward three scenarios starting with keeping the structure the same as it is now but allowing the LSU’s campuses in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Alexandria and Eunice operate as distinct institutions.
Another scenario would merge over the next decade the two positions, ending the “seemingly endemic struggles of system and flagship,” the consultants wrote in their “scenario analysis.”
The third scenario would combine 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.