On Monday, F. King Alexander will officially assume his responsibilities as LSU president. He will do this amid an exodus of LSU administrators, a disappointing legislative session and a growing need for leadership independent of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s grip on the LSU Board of Supervisors and other higher education officials within the state.
And if Alexander has any hope of maintaining LSU’s status as a Tier 1 university, he will need to employ a style of leadership not seen since the days of former LSU System President John Lombardi: bold and not afraid of rocking the Jindal boat. While this style ultimately lead to Lombardi’s firing and landed Louisiana Higher Education Commissioner Jim Purcell in hot water with the Governor’s Office earlier this spring because of his public concerns with Jindal’s proposed budget, it’s what LSU needs.
LSU needs a strong advocate against continued budget cuts dealt by the state Legislature and Jindal administration. And while the damage done to LSU and its status among other universities in the nation is likely long-lasting, the time to stand up and fight for higher education in Louisiana is now.
For the sake of LSU and its students, Alexander cannot afford to continue the “navel-gazing” behavior expected by Jindal of our higher education administrators. If anything, our higher education leaders should be the most-prominent voices when it comes to Jindal’s assault on our public postsecondary institutions. No longer should these administrators sit idly as our state’s legislators and elected officials refuse to give colleges and universities the funding they not only deserve but also desperately need. They should play an active and public role in shaping legislation and policy that is in the best interest of our state’s colleges and universities, even if it isn’t popular with the current administration.
As students, faculty and staff await Alexander’s official arrival at LSU, let’s hope he brings with him the backbone to confront our state’s leaders over the bigger issues, as he did at Cal State Long Beach.