The new year will bring big change to LSU. President F. King Alexander stepped down in late December to begin preparing for his new post at the helm of Oregon State University, and already conversation has turned to who will succeed him.
Though a couple of names have continued to surface, in truth it’s too soon to say with any certainty because too many political factors will come into play. In the meantime, here are a few things to look for:
• The process will be important. The LSU Board of Supervisors was widely criticized for the way it conducted its closed-door search in 2013, and board chair Mary Werner has vowed to be more collaborative and transparent this time around. It’s not rocket science, as one longtime faculty senate member recently noted. Universities hire presidents all the time. You retain a national search firm, name a committee of stakeholders to vet the candidates and, at the end of the process, go public with the two or three finalists. It’s a public institution, after all, funded by taxpayer dollars.
• The structure may change. Alexander was the first joint president chancellor of LSU, after the board voted to merge the positions and consolidate the seven-campus system in an effort to make LSU more cohesive, collaborative and efficient. It was a difficult job because he had no precedent to follow and little direction from the board. He did well in some areas; less so in others, which will give the current board the ammunition it needs to argue for splitting the position into two. Does it make sense? Certainly from a political perspective. Different factions want to see different things in the next leadership of the state’s flagship university. If you can pick two leaders—a system president and a chancellor—you can make more people happy.
• It won’t be easy. For all the talk about what should happen, don’t expect the process to be done by the book, even if it looks that way on the surface. There is no more political institution in the state than LSU, and for that reason, the university has suffered. Board members are political, legislators exert influence in myriad ways and governors often get involved in matters where they just don’t belong. Those dynamics will be in play in the selection of a new president.
Faces to watch
• Jay Dardenne, (left) Louisiana commissioner of administration
• Jim Henderson, president University of Louisiana System
• Stephen Moret, (right) president and CEO, Virginia Economic Development Partnership
• Timothy Caboni, president of Western Kentucky University and a New Orleans native
• Jeff Talley, retired U.S. Army general; Global Fellow for IBM Center for the Business of Government; sociology professor, University of Southern California.
On a related matter:
After a one-year break, look for another fee increase
LSU students last year escaped a fee increase for the first time since 2015, but that is not a trend likely to take hold for a university with rising costs and limited funding from the state and federal government. LSU raised fees by $282 per student in 2018 because of unfunded mandated expenses and faculty pay raises, and raised fees by $270 in 2017 for faculty and staff pay raises as well as to fund instruction and support services for the university. In 2016, LSU raised its student fees by $177 to enhance the student experience in and out of the classroom, and to support existing faculty and related academic support priorities, according to online records. However, there are no fee increases on the upcoming Board of Supervisors’ meeting agenda, according to Jason Droddy, associate vice president for the board. But that does not rule it out for later in the year. There was a plan floated last summer to increase LSU student fees to cover $12 million in expenses, but it was scrapped before it went to the board.