LSU Faculty Senate Publications

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Message from the President: The cloudy, demoralizing times in which we now work diminish interest even in silver linings, especially given that a shower of gold is what our University most needs. Nevertheless, the ensemble of crises that now bugles us into action provides an occasion for empirical as well as speculative consideration of shibboleths about the academic workplace. One easy observation is that the University continues to function and to do good work through the good efforts and intentions of good workers. Some may ask whether the Faculty Senate Monthly Newsletter ought only to focus on the higher education funding crisis, but the abundance of stories that have accumulated during the summer publication hiatus demonstrates, empirically, that our institution enjoys an abundance of momentum. That momentum may occasionally dwindle owing to lack of energy in the form of rewards, but the great intellectual machine of our great University cannot be stopped merely by the posturing of a not-so-great governor or the antics of a legislature. The Newsletter serves, even in its whimsical moments, as a measure of how much the University has going for it even when wrenches fall into its cogs. Another question that is being asked empirically (albeit not consciously) is that of the origins of the leadership caste. For decades, LSU has pursued two dichotomous courses with regard to the appointment of personnel at all levels. The University either rushes into a frantic national search for the allegedly very best candidates or it exercises its patronage prerogatives by recruiting the friendly (if pleading) kid next door. A survey of the University today shows that the institution is run by a mix of interim appointments, internal promotions, regional experts, and a very few nationallyrecruited migrant administrators. When the demand on leadership talent is greatest, it seems, experience with the local culture and knowledge of institutional history are proving as effective as overpriced hybrids cultivated in the hothouse of executive search firms. Granted, the present regime is making its share of mistakes, but there is no missing the fact that, when the going gets tough, those who get going are the long-term stakeholders in the institution. The present experience proves that there are a wide range of searches—not just national or next-door—and that talent can be found at home, in the LSU System schools, across the state, and maybe even in Arkansas. Another shibboleth being challenged by present economic circumstances is that academic salaries are or should be set by the marketplace. The administrations of both LSU and the LSU System have wisely informed the media masters that severe budget cuts will drive away faculty members. Experience, however, indicates that comparatively few colleagues have emigrated from Tigertown. The nationwide recession has all but eliminated the “marketplace”in the majority of disciplines. Some disciplines that are indispensable to the mission of the University never had a marketplace, if only because numbers of their practitioners are thin in even the most prestigious institutions. The fact that university “lines” exist for certain low-visibility specialties shows that, whatever salary levels may be, society not only values those enterprises but has made a de facto covenant with their practitioners, agreeing that those who undertake the demanding study and rigorous lifestyle that leads to expertise will receive reasonable compensation under reasonable working conditions. The various explorations of the topic of faculty contracts, work rules, tenure, and compensation that are now occurring around campus indicate that colleagues are eager to rediscover and, with luck, enforce a covenant that was also made for the benefit of Louisiana and all its posterity. With all good wishes, Kevin L. Cope, Faculty Senate President