LSU faculty head: Board limits input

An LSU faculty leader who opposes the system’s planned top-down restructuring accused the university’s governing board Thursday of lying to the public to make the process seem fair and inclusive.

LSU is considering consolidating its campuses and naming a chief executive officer at the top to run the network of academic campuses, hospitals and research facilities. The 16-member LSU Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Friday on the leadership issue.

Proponents say the reorganization will move the university forward academically while saving millions of dollars. Critics have argued that consolidation plans haven’t been thoroughly vetted and could end up causing more harm than good.

Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope said the LSU board has been “ramrodding” the reorganization through while taking only symbolic steps to include faculty, staff and students in the process.

“For them to say this has been an inclusive process, is a lie,” Cope said.

LSU board chairman Hank Danos did not return two calls for comment Thursday.

While acknowledging that he’s been “somewhat” involved in the discussions surrounding the restructuring, Cope called on the LSU board to start the process over with an “impartial committee” made up of significant numbers of faculty, staff and students.

Cope’s comments echo a Faculty Senate resolution passed on Wednesday, which also calls on the LSU board to suspend a do-over vote scheduled for Friday to combine the system president and Baton Rouge chancellor positions.

The board’s Oct. 26 vote to combine the two positions came under fire from Cope and others, who complained the merger vote was not on the board agenda as required by the Open Meetings Law.

The board agreed to a re-do vote three weeks later when Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office warned LSU that there were “serious concerns” whether LSU broke the law.

Fresh off that victory over the LSU board, Cope is trying to stop the new vote even while asking a professors’ organization and an accrediting agency to investigate how the university has handled the planned reorganization.

It appears that Cope and the faculty he represents have some traction.

In letters and emails to the university, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, known as SACS, has questioned whether LSU board members followed the proper protocols in May when they appointed William Jenkins to the dual roles of system president and Baton Rouge chancellor.

SACS, which certifies university quality, also took issue with the lack of information coming from the LSU board regarding their plan to merge the chancellor and president positions permanently.

SACS considers mergers and consolidations “substantive changes” which need to be approved by the agency prior to being enacted.

Cope said he also has been in contact with the AAUP, or American Association of University Professors, a nearly 50,000-member organization of faculty and other academics focused on ensuring academic freedom.

The group already placed LSU on their censure list in June over what they described as the improper firings of a coastal researcher and a biology professor.

Censure status is generally seen as a black eye against a school that hampers faculty recruitment and retention.

“There are groups on campuses up and down this state that want to be heard, and they aren’t getting the opportunity,” Cope said.

“This is a huge public institution where a handful of people are about to hand out a half-a-million dollar job to somebody behind closed doors.”

The 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.