LSU Faculty Senate Publications

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Message from the President: Brutus, when consigning Caesar to eternity, seeks attention from friends, Romans, and countrymen, asking them to lend him their ears. Had he been living in Baton Rouge in 2011, he might well have added to that list “coalitions,” the Flagship Coalition being the newest among the many supporters and compatriots seeking citizenship in the Tiger Empire. Brutus, of course, was himself not the most dependable of friends; he called for numerous “ears” knowing well that listening would be a wise strategy in turbulent times. He offered a list of affiliated parties—friends, Romans, and countrymen— suspecting that maintaining more than one set of supporters increased the likelihood of safety, possibly of success. Over the course of the last six months, the nature of the economic and political threat to higher education, especially to the LSU campus, has waxed, waned, morphed, and metamorphosed—not just once, but many times. In that short period of time, LSU, like its sororal campuses around the state, has had need of many kinds of supporters, including a few articulate faculty members. The “crisis” induced by the budget has not been only one crisis, but many sub-crises, with many of those being partly the product of recessionary times but also partly the product of decades of mediocre management. At each hitch, jump, or turn in the budget crisis, faculty, staff, and administration alike have been tempted to jump aboard one or the other solution bandwagons. Over time, however, the sustaining of various scenarios and the cultivation of assorted supporters has proved the most successful way to minimize turmoil. Those concerned with faculty governance—not only on the LSU campus or the LSU System campuses, but around the state—have thus welcomed the initial overtures of the new Flagship Coalition. Many of the initiatives presented by that somewhat dispersed body arise from good sense and are long overdue. Especially commendable are proposed changes in procurement, management, maintenance, and capital outlay (building) procedures. Initial proposals, however, are only part of the story, and so it is that LSU faculty governance has entered into a productive dialogue with the upper administration in the hope of clarifying other proposals pertaining to work rules, benefits, compensation, staff job security, the coherence of the statewide higher education program, and, perhaps most importantly, the mission of the University, especially its mission to carry out basic, fundamental research even when that activity is not immediately lucrative. To date, the administration has been welcoming and responsive, with the result that we may expect additional clarifications and better-defined initiatives as our supporters overcome their bashfulness with regard to scrutiny by higher educational professionals. Coach Curley Hallman used to observe that, in football, it was necessary to win inches before one could win yards. It may be that we need one supportive coalition before we can get two, three, or four. The balance of influences that maintains the comprehensiveness of a research university will be best served by the ideological averaging that results from a multiplicity of supporters. As that multiplicity develops, faculty governance will remain vigilant, ensuring that all efforts to support the University remain congruent with its goals, missions, and values. With all good wishes, Kevin L. Cope, Faculty Senate President