Merger reaffirmed

The LSU Board of Supervisors on Friday again voted to merge the system president and Baton Rouge chancellor positions as part of a system-wide effort to restructure the university.

Friday’s unanimous vote was mostly a symbolic gesture taken to quiet critics and satisfy the Louisiana attorney general’s concerns that the original merger vote held on Oct. 26 was not listed on the board agenda as required by the state’s Open Meetings Law.

The vote is just one step in the LSU board’s planned top-to-bottom reorganization of the university’s network of academic campuses, hospitals and research facilities.

After the meeting, LSU board Chairman Hank Danos repeated his promise to seek input from all corners of the university during the restructuring. He also took aim at faculty members and others who have suggested that the LSU board is trying to keep faculty, staff and students from contributing to the process.

The LSU Faculty Senate, on Wednesday, fast-tracked a resolution accusing the LSU board of shutting faculty out of the process. The document further called on LSU to “suspend” the reorganization in favor of appointing a new “impartial committee that includes a substantial representation of faculty and staff from the LSU System campuses.”

Danos, on Friday, called the faculty complaints “a little confusing.”

He mentioned that faculty opinions were used to help draft the 25-page report from the Washington, D.C.-based AGB consulting firm that kick-started the reorganization.

Danos also mentioned three recent faculty breakfast meetings in which the board participated and several informal meetings he and other board members have had with faculty members throughout the process.

“I’ve been to several campuses and had dialogues with faculty and staff and so have other board members. There’s a difference over whether we agree or whether we are listening,” Danos said. “Sometimes we may not agree with what is being said, but there have been numerous opportunities for faculty input.”

Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope reiterated previous positions Friday saying the LSU board is treating the reorganization as a “corporate takeover.”

“Their feeling that they have been inclusive is not the same as actually being inclusive,” Cope said.

Regardless of the disagreement between faculty and the board, Cope points out that other agencies have expressed serious concerns over how the restructuring is being handled.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, known as SACS, has questioned whether LSU board members followed the protocol earlier this year 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 has asked SACS to send an investigative team to Baton Rouge to sort out whether the LSU board has acted appropriately during the reorganization.

The dustup with SACS comes just prior to Jenkins’ planned weekend trip to Dallas to attend the agency’s annual conference.

Jenkins on Friday, denied that his trip had anything to do with a possible SACS investigation.

“Four of our institutions are up for accreditation this year,” Jenkins said. “This is normal, routine business any university president would attend to.”