Article on LSU lazy river in higher ed journal rankles F. King Alexander

A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education singles out the lazy river at LSU’s renovated University Recreation Center as an example of how public colleges and universities are trying to meet student demand for ever more luxurious amenities at a time when state funding for academic programs is dwindling.

Though the article notes that students voted to impose on themselves a $135 fee increase over three years to pay for the project, which was part of an $85 million renovation of the U-Rec, it also points out numerous examples of the perception problem the lazy river creates.

Referencing the aging Troy Middleton Library, whose “postwar charms have been lost to disrepair and neglect,” the article says Manship School of Mass Communications Professor Bob Mann, “can’t get past the fact that LSU is recruiting new students with a lazy river while hoping that they don’t look at the library.”

“You wouldn’t bring a high school student here,” Mann is quoted as saying of the library. “But you damn sure would take them to the rec center.”

Following a speech to the Baton Rouge Rotary Club today, LSU President F. King Alexander defended the project and questioned whether the Chronicle reporter had an agenda.

“We took him on a tour of the $110 million, state-of-the-art engineering building,” Alexander said. “I found it quite funny that he didn’t mention that in the article.”

Alexander said 85% of LSU students voted in favor of taxing themselves to pay for the upgraded U-Rec, and that having such facilities not only helps attract and retain students, but keeps them on campus.

“I’d rather have them there than drinking in Tigerland,” King said, noting that daily student attendance at the U-Rec has doubled from 3,000 to 6,000.

Alexander went on to suggest that long term health outcomes in the state could improve because of “good health habits” students develop now.

“It’s a credit to our students that they want to develop good health habits,” he said. “It’s easy to criticize something from the outside, but this is about retention and graduation.”

—Stephanie Riegel

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