As the University and LSU System inch closer toward reorganization, members of the Transition Advisory Team tried to envision what LSU could look like in 10 years on Thursday during a team immersion workshop where they discussed consolidating personnel, combating budget cuts and serving Louisiana residents.
The reorganization process is being headed by SSA Consultants, and Christel Slaughter, a partner of SSA Consultants, emphasized that the University is embarking on uncharted territory in this process.
“There is no best approach, no model for us to follow,” she said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Hank Danos said the team needs to think globally while protecting Louisiana’s culture.
“While we preserve our culture and our heritage and the richness of who we are, we have to get rid of those lines that separate us from Texas and Oklahoma and Europe and Asia,” Danos said.
Interim System President and Chancellor William “Bill” Jenkins and student experience subcommittee Co-chair Russel L. Honore’ agreed.
“The function here is to serve the citizens,” Honore’ said. “We can’t lose connectivity to the people of Louisiana.”
Some members of the team worried about losing personnel and the state’s dire budget situation.
Jim Firnberg, co-chairman of the Research and Discovery subcommittee, said they need to look at payroll and back office areas, like consolidating personnel, human resources and purchasing, when Slaughter asked the team what LSU will look like in 10 years.
Firnberg said people fear unemployment once these consolidations are made.
“Go walk the halls,” Slaughter said. “There are a lot of people who may not even be here when we figure out how to finance the system. We’ve got a lot of people who are starting to think about hanging up their spurs.”
Shelby McKenzie, the University’s lead legal counsel, said they need to figure out the finance situation.
“The state sugar daddy is gone,” McKenzie said.
In order to attract students, Lester Johnson, co-chair of the Academic subcommittee, said the University needs to focus on faculty.
“We need to promote the faculty that are here so they can become stars in their fields, and we need to retain them here,” Johnson said. “We need to attract faculty from around the nation. If we do that, the students will come.”
Stan Ikenberry, former president of the University of Illinois and of the American Council of Education, said the University needs to show the people of Louisiana and its policymakers that it has taken steps to operate more efficiently. He said the University can do that by focusing on administrative cost reductions, streamlined processes and online learning.
“[Online learning] is liberating students to go at their own pace and learn in more efficient online systems, but also focus on making engagements with faculty members as rich and rewarding and challenging as it can be,” Ikenberry said.
The team also discussed what qualities the next president should possess.
Several members said the University needs someone who can commit long-term, around seven years.
Honore’ said the objective should be the hire the best president and not worry about money.
“You’ve got to be willing to pay the highest comparative of anybody in the region, because you want someone that’s going to come here for self-interest, and they want to serve the people in the University,” Honore’ said.
Honore’ also said everyone needs to participate in the reorganization.
“We have an opportunity to engage everyone,” he said. “We don’t want them to miss their academic experience to participate in democracy.”
Carroll Suggs, Student Experience subcommittee co-chair, said listening is the most important.
“The more people you can listen to, the better equipped you are to make a decision,” Suggs said.