LSU launches chief search

Faculty, staff question board’s reorganization moves

LSU officially launched its search for a president Friday in what is expected to be at least a six-month process largely conducted in secret.

The search is part of a top-down reorganization that started last week when the LSU Board of Supervisors voted to merge the system president with the Baton Rouge chancellor position.

Another phase of the shake-up came under fire Friday from some faculty and staff who questioned and criticized the LSU Board of Supervisors’ plan to reorganize the way that LSU’s campuses are structured.

A report from the Association of Governing Boards consulting group suggested that LSU would become more efficient by moving away from its model of autonomous campuses in favor of a consolidated “flagship system.”

The LSU system is made up of the main LSU campus in Baton Rouge; the LSU Law Center and LSU Agricultural Center, that sit adjacent to the main campus; academic campuses in Alexandria, Eunice and Shreveport; LSU Health Sciences Centers in New Orleans and Shreveport; 10 public hospitals; and related outpatient clinics across the state.

Under the report by Association of Governing Boards, 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 whose primary responsibility would be the main campus and all academic matters.

The executive vice presidents would report to a president, who reports to the LSU Board of Supervisors.

During Friday afternoon’s meeting, LSU board Chairman Hank Danos created a transition team to study a reorganization and eventually make recommendations to the board. Danos did not name members of the team or say when they would finish their work.

“We are going to make a more streamlined and efficient LSU,” Danos said. “The organizational chart from the AGB report is not a done deal. The concept of reorganizing is a done deal.”

Interim LSU system President and Baton Rouge Chancellor William Jenkins called a reorganization necessary to “prepare LSU for the next 30 to 50 years.”

“This is not something that would be nice to do,” Jenkins said. “It’s something that we, this board, has to do.”

A large contingent of people representing LSU Health Sciences Centers in New Orleans and Shreveport and an even larger group of faculty and students affiliated with the Paul M. Hebert Law Center crowded the meeting room to voice their opposition.

Johnette Magner, executive director of the Shreveport-Bossier Business Alliance, said her group of business organizations are “united in opposition” to changes that would affect how the largest employer in the area — the Health Sciences Center in Shreveport — operates.

James Sudduth, representing LSU law students said he agrees that LSU needs to adapt for the future, but urged the board not to change too much with the well-performing law school.

“We ask that you show deference to our school because it’s the highest rated school in the LSU System,” Sudduth said.

It is unclear how LSU’s reorganization debate will play out in the midst of a presidential search.

Dallas-based search consultant Bill Funk said the LSU board’s decision last week to merge the president and Baton Rouge chancellor position will make LSU more attractive in a climate where major research universities including Yale University, the University of Florida and the University of California at Berkeley, are searching for presidents.

Funk also urged secrecy, saying that LSU will have to pursue candidates in “substantial positions” who aren’t actively looking for a new job.

LSU Board general counsel Shelby McKenzie advised committee members to “carefully avoid any written or electronic communications with anyone that could identify a candidate by name or description.”

“Don’t write anything that would embarrass you on the front page of the paper,” he said.

LSU has been without a president since late April when the board dismissed John Lombardi saying his brash behavior hurt their standing with legislators and Gov. Bobby Jindal. Former Baton Rouge Chancellor Michael Martin left LSU in August to become the head of the Colorado State University system.

LSU and its associated foundations will pay R. Williams Funk & Associates, $120,000 plus expenses to lead this most recent search. LSU previously paid the firm more than $80,000 each for searches that led to the hirings of Lombardi and Martin.