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2012

Best partner for LSUS? LSU System

April 16, 2012

Chancellor Vincent Marsala was published in the Shreveport Times Sunday, April 15. The text of his op-ed follows. 

Promoters pushing a takeover of LSU Shreveport by Louisiana Tech blame an alleged lack of growth at LSUS on neglect by the LSU System. They also contend the proposal has been studied extensively. Both statements are false.

Over the past 40 years, the LSU System has approved every degree program proposed by LSUS. The LSU Board of Supervisors long ago recognized that with two, 2-year colleges in the metro area, it was logical LSUS evolve as an upper-level, undergraduate and, graduate institution focused on meeting workforce needs in Shreveport-Bossier. The Louisiana Board of Regents, however, has deliberately held up, turned down or ignored almost every attempt by LSUS to expand degree offerings.

At the same time, the Regents in recent years hired consultants who cranked out documents that, in effect, supported efforts to hold LSUS hostage. One such report even oddly asserted "There is little in the current economic structure that creates substantial demand for college educated workers, especially those educated at the baccalaureate level and above" in Shreveport/Bossier, which is now the state's third most populous area.

The Regents have thrown up innumerable bureaucratic roadblocks to prevent LSUS growth. The excuse in almost every case has been that new programs do not fit within LSUS' role, scope and mission despite continual attempts by the Board of Supervisors and even the Louisiana Senate to change that mission statement, especially in trying to create needed doctoral degrees. Talking recently with Regent members, I was told flatly that if LSUS simply moved to the University of Louisiana System as a stand-alone university, it would not be able to readily change its role, scope and mission. The only way to do that, I was informed, was to immediately merge with Louisiana Tech.

A telling example of the Regent's apparent stubbornness is LSUS' effort to offer a masters degree in biological sciences, a degree requested by Shreveport area teachers. The LSU Board approved the measure four years ago. The Regent's own consultants recommended approval too. But it took two-and-a-half more years to win final Regents consent. Why? Is it that the Regents are intentionally impeding development at LSUS as a way to force a Louisiana Tech capture of LSUS assets? Is this proposed merger really a land and resources grab?The new LSU Shreveport Commitment Plan, which is a collaboration of LSUS, LSU A&M and LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport, immediately responds to the need for additional degree programs in Shreveport/Bossier.

LSU A&M, for instance, by virtue of its statewide and national flagship mission, will offer a joint program with LSUS in petroleum engineering with a focus on natural gas. There also will be new programs in construction management, sports administration, international studies and public administration, with some courses beginning as early as this fall.

And more new programs are being proposed and considered by LSUS, including doctorates in educational leadership and school psychology, a master's in criminal justice, and a bachelor's of fine arts in digital arts.

Critics ask why it took so long to propose these programs. The simple answer is that LSUS and the LSU System played by the rules despite evidence those rules were being bent. Those who question motives behind these moves should ask why the Regents and Tech, which for more than 30 years have had the authority to extend new academic programs not offered by LSUS, especially in engineering, haven't done it? It makes one wonder whether there is a hidden agenda at work.

The LSU Board, LSU A&M and the LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport are strongly responding to needs of northwest Louisiana after years battling Board of Regents conduct apparently designed to mislead the public while protecting Tech from the rise of a competitive, comprehensive university in Shreveport. Anyone who says otherwise either doesn't know the facts or refuses to admit the truth told by a long trail of denial and delay.

I believe that the LSU Commitment Plan is the best solution for LSUS and the community should embrace this plan. The LSU System is the best partner for LSUS.