In a cynical move that favored political expediency over public trust, the LSU Board of Supervisors recently voted to merge the positions of LSU system president and chancellor after failing to give the public adequate notice that such a vote would be taken.
That’s no way to run a university system that’s one of Louisiana’s largest and most-important public institutions. Whatever the merits of merging these two positions, the LSU board’s actions threaten to compromise public confidence in this consolidation — and the candidate eventually selected to fill the newly created post.
There was no notice at the recent LSU board meeting that a vote on this controversial measure would be taken. The action came after the board heard an Association of Governing Boards’ proposal for reorganizing the LSU wystem.
After hearing about the AGB proposal, LSU board member Blake Chatelain suggested that the board vote to merge the positions. The resolution authorizing the merged positions noted that the AGB report had been made available to the public. But the report was first made public during the meeting at which the vote to merge the positions was taken. That left the public no time to digest the report’s findings before LSU board members voted to merge the chancellor and system president positions.
This amounts to a textbook definition of rubber-stamp, railroad management, and it will only deepen the perception that the LSU Board of Supervisors is not fulfilling its obligation to be a transparent, deliberative public body. Too often, the LSU board does not appear to deliberate at all. Instead it routinely seems to merely affirm the wishes of Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose allies now dominate the board.
Jindal has vigorously supported the idea of merging the LSU system and chancellor posts. Stephen Moret, who works for Jindal as the secretary of the state Department of Economic Development, has been widely rumored to be a favored candidate to fill the newly merged LSU management position. Moret has said that he’s happy in his current job.
We don’t know if the rumors of Moret’s pending move to LSU are true, but we can understand how such speculation grows. In the absence of transparency, those outside of LSU’s inner circle are left to speculate — a form of Kremlinology that does not reflect the best ideals of representative government.
Sadly, the LSU board’s heavy-handed tactics in advancing the vote on the merger of LSU’s top management job are part of a larger pattern in which LSU has habitually picked key managers after secretive searches. LSU officials have also blocked the release of records dealing with key decisions being made about the future of public hospitals and medical education programs under LSU’s control.
Maybe merging the jobs of chancellor and LSU system president is a good idea. But the LSU board’s indifference to public oversight and input suggests that it’s unwilling to argue its policy choices on the merits — and that it could also be equally indifferent to public accountability when it picks the person to be LSU’s next top administrator.
That would be a tragedy not only for the public, but LSU’s next leader, whoever that may be.