BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The president of LSU's Faculty Senate filed a complaint with the university's accrediting agency about plans to reorganize the system's leadership, saying Thursday that decision-making has been too secretive and appears rife with political meddling by the governor.
Kevin Cope said he lodged a list of criticisms with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools about an LSU Board of Supervisors decision to merge the jobs of system president and chancellor of the flagship campus in Baton Rouge.
The job consolidation is part of a planned, but still undetermined, revamp of the multi-campus university system.
Cope said his complaint was sent to the president of SACS' Commission on Colleges over the weekend.
In his letter to the Georgia-based accrediting organization, Cope criticized the LSU board as making decisions with inadequate evidence to support its position, too much input from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration and disregard for suggestions from faculty.
"Faculty members doubt that the accreditation status of an institution (or complex of institutions) can be maintained admidst intense political influence or subsequent to a veritable circus of emergency meetings," wrote Cope, an English professor who also serves as chair of the LSU System Council of Faculty Advisors.
LSU board chairman Hank Danos didn't return a request for comment Thursday about Cope's complaint.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled Friday to re-vote on the job merger after the attorney general's office said the previous vote appeared to have violated the open meetings law. But the board's search committee already has started looking for candidates to fill the consolidated job, suggesting the board isn't changing course.
"A governing board that receives a scolding from the highest legal official in the state is not operating with the integrity expected of a major research and education unit," Cope wrote.
William Jenkins is currently working as both interim system president and interim chancellor of the main campus.
Cope describes a heavy politicization of LSU governance, noting all Board of Supervisors members have been named by Jindal and, in many instances, are campaign contributors.
The Faculty Senate leader said in his letter to SACS that he repeatedly hears comments from university officials suggesting that decisions on campuses are made based on "instructions from the fourth floor," a reference to where the governor's office is located at the Louisiana Capitol.
Jindal spokeswoman Shannon Bates denied any meddling by the governor's office. In a statement, she said, "LSU's board makes its own decisions."
Cope's complaint also raises concerns about the influence of university donors, support groups and foundations, whose members Cope says are involved in search committees and recruitment campaigns. He called it a "corrosion of the credibility of the institution."
SACS officials have notified LSU that the job merger needs approval from its Commission on Colleges before it can be done, and they have pressed for more details about the reorganization.
Accreditation is a benchmark used to judge the worth of a school, reviewing governance, finance and integrity issues. It can affect the value of a degree in a job market and a school's ability to attract faculty and students. LSU is currently in the midst of an ongoing review to reaffirm its accreditation with SACS.
LSU leaders have said they are in compliance with accreditation standards.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.