With posters for Gears of War, The Dark Knight and Yoda lining the walls, 3D Squared’s office is decorated like a teenager’s game room, in stark contrast to the other more prepossessing business suites on the second floor of Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise. And with a group of college and high school kids huddled around computers showing virtual characters and landscapes, it’s easy to confuse the group as being hard at play, not work. Joe Castille, executive producer of the state-funded digital workforce initiative, clears up a common misperception. “What we’re doing is not so much about video games,” he says. “Video games is what helps the kids get excited, but it’s about a broader skill set. It’s the technical skills, teamwork, problem solving and communications.”
Blurring the line between playing a video game and learning the ins of the game industry is one of the ways 3D Squared is trying to pioneer digital media education and workforce training in the state. Last year, 3D Squared received a $750,000 budget allocation from the state — sponsored by Lafayette Sen. Mike Michot and state Rep. Page Cortez — to establish its office at LITE, develop the educational prototype, as well as perform a statewide assessment of existing digital media programs and resources. With those tasks nearly complete, 3D Squared is now looking to take the next step in its mission: developing a full-blown curriculum that can either be implemented in technical colleges and universities or as its own online workforce training program. This year, Cortez sponsored an allocation of $4.5 million for the group to continue its work — money that is now in jeopardy due to the gaping shortfalls across the budget, including $219 million in proposed cuts to higher education. This week, the state Senate will begin its review of funds allocated in HB1, the House budget bill.
“We expect to come out of the process with a substantially smaller allocation,” Castille says, “but there seems to be a growing consensus that this is an important initiative.”
Down the hall at UL’s Cinematic Arts Workshop, Director Charles Richard says he didn’t even bother submitting another legislative appropriation request similar to the one his group received last year. He’s also grappling with a recent reduction in grant funding from the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the fact that he cannot get his proposed bachelor’s degree in moving image arts approved because the Board of Regents has placed a hold on any new degree programs (this despite the new degree coming at virtually no additional cost). The state is also looking at scaling back funding for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities — another entity that several up and coming filmmakers rely on for grants. “It’s the indirect impacts that are a lot harder to measure but they’re no less significant,” Richard says.
Meanwhile, officials at LITE have for months been stressing over the very direct impact they will likely face. The nascent immersive visualization center still receives approximately 80 percent of its operating budget from the state, through UL.
Earlier this year, LITE’s board of commissioners directed interim chief executive officer Henry Florsheim to prepare for a worse-case scenario hit of $500,000, or 13 percent of LITE’s $3.9 million annual operating budget. That’s on top of a $150,000 budget cut UL passed on to LITE in January, as part of its mid-year budget revisions, and a $400,000 grant from LEDA that goes away July 1. Bradd Clark, dean of sciences at UL-Lafayette and chair of the LITE board of commissioners, says UL could soon be put in a very difficult position. “I’m absolutely amazed at what seems to be going on in Baton Rouge,” he says. “It could be rough, if they really go ahead with this. It’s going to do damage.”
Clark says that UL President Joseph Savoie will have the final say as to how much of UL’s own state budget cuts get passed on to LITE. “I hope he’s going to try to protect LITE because of its importance for economic development in the community,” Clark says.
In addition to salary cuts, Florsheim says the center may also have to forego planned software and technology upgrades. “That’s why these cuts are so harmful for us,” he says. “For LITE to be successful, we have to stay on the cutting edge with technology and staff.”
Several of LITE’s tenants feel the same way. “When it comes to digital media, we’re all very interdependent,” says Richard. “A cut for one is felt by everyone.”
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.