Advisory Team begins LSU restructuring work

LSU’s Transition Advisory Team on Tuesday created a series of committees that will be in charge of recommending how the university system’s separate institutions will be consolidated under the main campus in Baton Rouge.

They are calling the effort LSU2015.

Working under the notion that the nation’s universities need to adapt to an era of declining state budgets, while also serving a new breed of technology-savvy students, the 10-member group’s primary responsibility is to plot out how the university will survive going forward.

Made up of LSU alumni, businessmen, attorneys, a surgeon and a retired lieutenant army general, the group will oversee a series of subcommittees charged with shaping what the university will look like two years from now when the consolidation is expected to be completed.

LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope, on Tuesday, criticized the handling of the meeting noting that agendas weren’t made available to the public until moments before discussion started.

Cope has also been a frequent critic of a consolidation process that he says has been conducted largely in secret and without sufficient faculty input.

The idea to consolidate LSU’s campuses has been around for years. It was revived by the Louisiana Flagship Coalition of statewide business leaders this spring.

The current reorganization push follows an October report presented by the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Governing Boards consulting group, which suggested that LSU would become more efficient by moving away from its model of separate autonomous campuses in favor of a consolidated system organized under the flagship campus in Baton Rouge.

The LSU System is made up of the main campus; law school; agricultural center; academic campuses in Alexandria, Eunice and Shreveport; LSU Health Sciences Centers in New Orleans and Shreveport; 10 public hospitals; and related clinics across the state.

The reorganization essentially would put the Baton Rouge campus at the center and turn LSU’s remaining academic campuses, law school and agricultural center into companion institutions all governed by a chief executive at the top.

LSU Board of Supervisors Chairman Hank Danos said the reorganization will lead to “a better, world-class LSU.”

“Our challenge is to be bold and think big,” he said.

Jeff Selingo, the editorial director of The Chronicle of Higher Education, a Washington, D.C.-based weekly newspaper and website, appeared at the meeting via video-conferencing. He told the advisory team that if the national trend of cutting funds to higher education continues, state-run universities will be a thing of the past by 2059.

Selingo counseled that students are no longer “brand loyal” to one school and may transfer among different institutions several times on their way to a degree.

Closures, mergers, or in LSU’s case, a reorganization, “are not a bad thing,” he said. “It forces schools to make choices in order to arrive at a system that is more efficient.”

Christel Slaughter, part owner of Baton Rouge’s SSA Consultants firm, called LSU’s current reorganization “an opportunity to leapfrog over other institutions. People who are the wisest and most strategic get to the finish line first,” she said.

Slaughter said the advisory team is expected to offer its first recommendations to the LSU board in March.

The team should be finished with their final recommendations by late summer or fall — about the same time the university could hire a new president, she said.