Letter: State agents sold Southern University campuses

This letter comes to comment on your report on the strike out of higher education during the last legislative session (Advocate, Jan. 3). The report covered efforts by some higher education systems to cope with continuing budget cuts.

Among other things, it noted the commendable action of LSU athletics in financially helping the academic enterprise of the university and the recruitment of former students and the expansion of online offerings by the University of Louisiana System.

These actions contrast with the one you reported for the Southern University System, as far as its actual nature and impact are concerned.

Indeed, the reported “financial reorganization plan” and its purported centralization of “back office” operations are not so, even though these terms are fed to the public.

Since 2011, (see “SU takeover a power trip” (The Advocate, Aug. 24), the SU System has had complete control over the financial and information technology operations on SU campuses, as attested to by available documents.

This takeover has done nothing to support the campuses, strengthen them, or save money for them — despite the peddling of unsubstantiated platitudes, such as “business model,” “brand,” or “efficiency.”

After connecting the dots, including political ones at the state level, it appears that the October approval of a “financial plan” by the SU board of supervisors was to empower President Ronald Mason and his partners to consummate the giveaway of Southern’s campuses to a private entity for which he has been advertising since 2009.

A so-called “Master Services and Licensing Agreement” which President Mason introduced and the board approved on Oct. 28, 2011, literally gives the publicly owned SU campuses to Education Online Services Corp.

This “contract on” SU campuses has it that EOServe will advertise and recruit for the online programs of the campuses and collect 70 percent of the revenue, with 30 percent going to the SU System (not the campuses).

The contract also states EOServe will continue to receive 40 percent of the revenue for any online student who decides to enroll in a regular campus program.

It forbids SU campuses from having any partner for online programs other than EOServe, while EOServe continues to do business with other institutions or programs, including recruiting away students in SU programs for these entities.

The contract forbids SU campuses from developing online or distance learning resources by themselves! Further, it forbids them from using extensive, free online resources!

Incredibly, the contract that has been in effect since last year is an illegal one, as it has not been approved by the Office of Contractual Review despite official, public documents showing that it involves million of dollars.

Diola Bagayoko

distinguished professor of physics

Baton Rouge