Speak Not Professors: The Sadness of LSU and Higher Education in Louisiana

Anyone with past or present experience in the Bayou State cannot deny that significant damage has occurred in higher education.  Personally I think one of the myriad of problems is too many higher education systems exist. My opinion is that some could be merged and better coordination could take place. Whether or not that would have a major financial impact, I do not have the data to say. I think, however, that efficiency would improve leading to an easier transfer of credits among institutions with different missions and to create a better network for employment possibilities for students whether they are at a CC, the flagship, or any institution in between.

Damage, well looking at the state’s flagship university, LSU, one will see quite a number of distinguished faculty members and others who I would surmise to be quite capable administrators who have left the institution for positions in other states. That exodus diminishes the quality of a university in more ways than could be explained here. Obviously something is amiss.

In the state, the financial budgeting has been a quagmire.  The governor is more concerned with a fleeting dream of becoming president and places more credence in a pledge to a lobbyist than to the state or the country. That’s my opinion, and in a future piece I will cite multiple examples which helped shape my opinion.

Patronage, the good ole boy system remains in place. It’s not what you know, but who you know. More precisely it has progressed into not questioning who you know, but doing so not in order to thrive but just survive.

It’s sad and faculty members at LSU actually need to fear doing their jobs in a professional manner.  That may sound absurd, but a recent article from an individual appointed to the LSU Board of Supervisors did not attempt to disguise the threat to faculty for not toeing the “correct” political line.  While Supervisor Rolfe McCollister directed his threats to Professor Bob Mann, how could any faculty member not fear for his or her job?

Bob Mann is most certainly a representative of a distinguished faculty member with his research. I don’t believe my assessment is biased because I really do not know Professor Mann personally.  He was courteous and helpful back in my graduate school days when I sought assistance in locating resources for my research. Even without that minor and brief connection, I would still be an advocate for his scholarship. His initial book, Legacy to Power:  Senator Russell Long of Louisiana sits on my primary book shelf of history biographies. The Walls of Jericho and When Freedom Would Triumph are among my often recommended tomes on the Civil Rights Movement.  One of his more recent works, Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds is a shorter piece looking at primarily one specific aspect and many of my students have used it as supplemental reading for topics on Goldwater, LBJ, and the Cold War.

Publications of that quality attract top level students to research institutions. Quality research and quality teaching draws quality students, and it doesn’t take much to realize that.

What bothers me is that even if I did not have a long ago appreciation for sharing some contact information for individuals at the Old State Capitol and state archives among other places; even if I would have merely read and given those books he penned to students or colleagues instead of carrying them up and down so many flights of stairs in a number of states; even with no connection at all; I wonder why the Board Member McCollister’s criticisms against Professor Mann are ad hominin attacks instead of addressing the issues?

In Professor Mann’s columns for the Times Picayune at http://www.nola.com or on is personal blog Something Like the Truth, he writes about what he sees as problems at LSU within the scope of problems in state government. Agree or disagree with his positions, he cites his sources.  He’s informing others about the weak links of which he is aware along with the temporary patches.

If someone wishes, challenge him about a specific weak link.  If I were in the state, I’m certain that I would find points of agreement along with points of disagreement.  When disagreeing I would offer evidence to support my reasoning. If Mr. McCollister believes that Professor Mann is wrong, I would expect him or any member of the Board of Supervisors to present material which conflicts with Professor Mann’s writings. Instead, the arguments are personal.

Based upon Professor Mann’s scholarship, I think that he would welcome the conflicting information or to weigh and evaluate competing and supporting evidence. That opinion is not new or extraordinary for him or any other professor because that’s what people in our profession do. We seek out multiple sources and perspectives, evaluate, and try to convey what we have learned to others.

Instead, like I wrote above, ad hominin attacks.  The fact that Professor Mann previously worked for Senator John Breaux, Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, et al, needs to be stretched to the point of shredding to fit into debates concerning the state’s current budget debacles.

I do not know if Mr. McCollister in his personal attack of Mr. Mann along with the implied threat to other faculty members realizes that he is actually discrediting the very institution for which he serves on the Board of Supervisors. Is his failure to address the funding issues because he believes that these are not legitimate issues involving the university? As state funding has dropped, does Mr. McCollister believe that replacing that money with revenue generated by increasing student tuition and fees is the correct path?

For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Mr. McCollister is 100 percent correct in his assessment of Professor Mann. What does that say about the institution where Professor Mann holds a distinguished professorship, the Manship Chair? Would the published remarks by a sitting member of the Board of Supervisor’s about a full professor foster a desire for me to enroll as a student at that university?

Even without knowledge of the state budget woes and faculty exodus, if I were some aspiring assistant professor I would not accept a job at LSU even if that were the only offer I had on the table. Why would I risk my career by not supporting the “correct” political figure?  As an associate or full professor who might bring beaucoup grant money to an institution, I would likely feel terrified thinking of working for LSU because of the politics.

Please read the articles yourselves.  Which individual is seeking to identify and find ways to replace or to fix the weak links so that the chain can still perform its job?  Which individual is simply airing the dirty laundry and spreading the stink beyond where it already smells?

I’ll shed a tear tonight for family and friends back home while being thankful that my days as a student in the state have long since passed and that my career has led me to positions outside the great state of Louisiana.






2 thoughts on “Speak Not Professors: The Sadness of LSU and Higher Education in Louisiana

  1. Pingback: LAB Louisiana Boy | Prelude to Speak Not Professors

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