LSU Faculty Senate Publications

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Message from the President: Spring is the season in which metamorphoses routinely occur. It might also be a good time to consider the control that a dark old demon called habit can exert in even the bright days of renewal. Those who seldom sally through the ramparts of the many Boyd Halls and those who see the necessity of quick and often excruciating decisions by the administration may not see the grip that habit exerts not on any one campus executive but on the culture of administration as a whole. The most obvious and often the most prestigious form of habit is now called “best standards and practices.” In an earlier, less loquacious day, habit might have been called “precedent.” Someone like myself, who sits through dozens if not hundreds of committee meetings, quickly learns to come prepared with a paradoxical offering: an extant example of something purportedly new. Whenever a new idea of any kind is put forth at LSU, the first response, with astounding regularity and predictability, is either “let’s see what other institutions are doing [and copy that]” or “what are best standards and practices at other institutions [and how may we copy them].” In many cases this response is well intended, either as an expression of concern for the institution in a time of economic crisis or as an indication of the desire to do the right thing. What is more distressing if not puzzling is the degree to which protectiveness and good intentions have become associated with imitation and reluctance rather than with Tigerlevel daring. It is highly unlikely that LSU will ever lead anything, whether rankings or research productivity or quality of academic life, by following. Risk averse mentalities and terror of novelty will never produce preeminence. At the very least, we need to ask the etiological and analytical question, “where did the best standards and practices come from”? At the very most, LSU colleagues need to ask whether the desire to be great can become too strong, whether the hope of doing what others seem more able to do becomes so overwhelming that we can do nothing other than what others have already done for fear of seeming stupid. Love of this institution runs deep at every level. Even the most cynical “lifers” in the administration crack a smile when Mike the Tiger hugs them or when the Campanile peals out an LSU-pertinent tune. Yet even this love can become too ferocious, as it does when we keep building mediocre new structures that look like overblown and under-considered knock-offs of the adorably colloquial buildings that make the campus core or when we see LSU trademark goods aiming low rather than high with respect to market sector (when, o when, are we going to get some quality LSU-themed ladies’ wear?). LSU, after all, is a happy novelty. There is no other institution like it on the planet. Let’s not, as the song suggests, “hold that tiger,” but let’s try to do something original this spring—and maybe next fall, too. With all good wishes, Kevin L. Cope, Faculty Senate President