Jenkins: Finding a permanent LSU president/chancellor could be tough

Jenkins: Finding a permanent LSU president/chancellor could be tough

It might not be necessary for the next LSU System president to be a career academic with a doctoral degree, says William Jenkins, interim president of the LSU System and interim chancellor of the flagship campus. He says about 17% or so of the university system presidents nationwide are "nontraditional," coming from, for example, the business or political world as opposed to academia.

Still, Jenkins acknowledges traditional academic credentials are more important for a university campus chancellor. There's been some discussion that the LSU president and chancellor positions should be combined permanently.

"For one person to be able to do both is going to be difficult," Jenkins says, noting that the responsibilities are very different. "However, it's possible, depending who your campus head will be. … It would depend on the individual, and the structure that's put in place, and neither of those are resolved."

If the LSU Board of Supervisors were to merge the two positions, someone, perhaps with the title of "executive vice president," or something similar, would need to be able to run the campus with a fair amount of autonomy, he says.

During his address to the Baton Rouge Press Club today, Jenkins didn't say much about the future of the LSU hospital system, which is dealing with major Medicaid cuts and considering new partnerships with community hospitals. He did say LSU absolutely needs access to hospitals to provide medical training.

"But the question is, do we have to manage hospitals?" he says. "That is a very fundamental question."

Jenkins didn't predict how that question might be answered, or whether lawmakers might eventually close some hospitals. As the state reduces spending for higher education, Jenkins says the smaller state schools likely will struggle more than the name-brand research universities. While closing universities is unlikely, he says greater collaboration among schools will be needed.

"None of our institutions, in time, are going to have the academic and intellectual horsepower to provide everything to every student," Jenkins says.

He says the landscape of higher ed is changing, as so-called nontraditional students begin to outnumber students straight out of high school and online learning becomes more common.

"Higher education as you and I knew it will very soon disappear, because technology is going to play such a major role," he says.

Jenkins says LSU probably won't need to build many more buildings, except to make sure the labs are up-to-date.

Editor's note: This story has been changed since its original publication.

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