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Town hall shows concerns over details, funding of LSU System restruction

Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 9:40pm

LSU students and faculty got a chance to weigh in on the upcoming reorganization of the LSU System.

The plan, which would bring all ten institutions under a single president, has drawn lots of criticism from faculty and students, who are worried about what it would cost and how it would improve Louisiana's education.

That is why LSU Interim President Dr. William Jenkins is holding a series of town hall meetings at each campus.

Jenkins said part of his goal was to dispel the notion that the board of supervisors had already come to a final decision about how it will restructure.

"If we move without inclusion," Jenkins said, "we will fail. And we've got one shot at this, just one shot."

Rather than for Jenkins to explain what might happen, he said, "much, much, much more importantly is for you to tell me, to tell us, for you to tell us what you think. What you think, if it's a good or a bad idea."

More than 100 people, mainly faculty members, attended Thursday's town hall. Most were concerned about the restructuring, because they did not think they had enough information about it.

"It is a serious problem at LSU that we don't have adequate mechanisms, I won't even call it transparency, with regards to communication," said Kevin Cope, the university's faculty senate president.

For some of the faculty members who spoke, fear of change was evident.

"We have to ask, 'why is it that the system evolved as it did?' It did so for a reason," Cope said.

But even those who embraced the plan said it would not make much difference unless the university hired additional professors.

"If there's not some kind of impetus for increasing the number of positions to make this thing work as the board lays this out, I honestly don't know how we can do it," said Robert Doolos, LSU's registrar.

"Ultimately, I think that it's funding that's the major issue," Cope agreed. "That is, we would not have to make these radical reductions, and with that make structural adjustments had the state and had the people of the state decided to vote in favor of the funding of education."

But they all seemed to accept that change is coming to their campus.

"Remember why we're here and what brings us here," urged Dr. K.C. White, Dean of Students, to her colleagues, "and why LSU is such an excellent institution, and I believe our best years are ahead of us."

Thursday's was the fourth of ten meetings Jenkins has scheduled. He said similar issues have come to the fore at each stop, but that each campus has unique challenges to overcome in the reorganization.

"(LSU-Eunice) is a two-year college, and where are they going to fit? Law is concerned about its autonomy, (LSU-Alexandria) is a hybrid at the moment, but is in a vulnerable position," he said.

Cope thought the town hall meeting was a good idea, but he doubted its effectiveness.

"It was certainly a goodwill effort on the part of President Jenkins," he said, "and to step forward as far as faculty engagement goes. However, it was abundantly clear that the supervisors are proceeding in their project without adequate detail."

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