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|One Flagship university is sufficient|
This week, state lawmakers will conduct hearings to entertain legislation that would give La. Tech University the green light to take over Louisiana State University at Shreveport, commonly known as LSU-S.
It's nothing but a scam that the Legislature and the Jindal administration should scuttle immediately.
Years ago, then-La. Tech President Jay Taylor envisioned the university evolving into a mini-Flagship institution, one that would compete with the state's one and only Flagship. The one and only Flagship, of course, is LSU in Baton Rouge. Always has been and always will be the only one, assuming the LSU community wakes up and realizes that there exist a persistent effort among some people at the state Board of Regents and points elsewhere, including La. Tech, to undermine LSU at every turn.
Standing toe to toe with LSU is an obsession in the Tech community. That's not meant as a derogatory remark about Tech and its followers. It is what it is, and it's accurate.
Yet, the Tech community knows it will never achieve a somewhat significant status unless it establishes a foothold in an urban center such as Shreveport. That would allow Tech to tap into a pool of students that might not be inclined to attend college full-time in a small town like Ruston. Nothing against Ruston, but let's face it. It's not Shreveport, and it certainly isn't Baton Rouge. An argument could be made that even Monroe is more exciting than Ruston. The point is most college students desire a little excitement in their lives, and Ruston doesn't offer it.
The Tech community also knows that its path to stardom would be helped along significantly if it could get it hands on a professional school such as LSU's medical school in Shreveport. Don't forget about LSU Medical Center in Shreveport, too.
If we're to believe La. Tech President Dan Reneau, his university has plans to operate its own law school. At least that's what Reneau told a gathering in Shreveport, among other things.
"I see a new mini-Flagship type of university for the area with engineering, PhDs in physics, doctorates in education," Reneau said. "I see the opportunity for a booming performing arts program expanding on the top notch program here and doctoral programs we could never get accepted in Ruston…You could look down the road and see a school of optometry, a second law school."
Maybe someone should remind Reneau that besides the law school at LSU, another public law school already operates in Louisiana. It's at Southern University in Baton Rouge, and it's a safe assumption that supporters of Southern would not appreciate Reneau's remark, which could be interpreted as racially insensitive toward one of the state's historically black universities.
Though it seems as if the proposed merger of Tech and LSU-S cropped up overnight, it's been on the drawing board for years. It was only recently, though, that the Tech community went public with a study that claimed a merger between the university in Ruston and the one in Shreveport was a good idea. A questionable study to say the least.
Questionable study be damned, the Board of Regents signed off on the proposed merger of Tech and LSU-S quicker than you can say kiss my foot. And off to the Legislature the Tech community went where it has employed a lobbying effort not seen since then-Sen. Foster Campbell ran with a proposal to impose a tax on foreign oil that's processed in Louisiana.
In the midst of all this madness, the LSU Board of Supervisors fired LSU President John Lombardi. The company line is Lombardi couldn't play well with others. A combative sort, Lombardi was. At least that's what we're told.
Is it possible that Lombardi was shown the door because he vehemently opposed the merger of Tech and LSU-S?
Maybe, but we'll probably never know the truth why Lombardi was axed before his contract expired at the end of the year. We're left to wonder.
With Lombardi out of the way, LSU called on William Jenkins to fill the void on an interim basis. A highly respected former chancellor and president of LSU, Jenkins immediately went to work over the weekend, doing his best to stomp out that asinine idea of merging Tech with LSU-S. Simply put, Jenkins correctly recognized the merger movement represented a threat to LSU's future.
It's highly unlikely the Tech community can marshal a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate to secure approval for Tech to gobble up LSU-S. The mere idea, though, that the Board of Regents showed LSU so little respect by allowing the merger proposal to gain some momentum should serve as a wake-up call for LSU and its thousands of alumni, myself included.
The irony of it all is that there exist an element in Louisiana that believes the state can afford to fund two Flagship institutions when the fact of the matter is the state does not adequately fund the one and only Flagship that we already have.
Truth be known, Louisiana has not properly funded higher education since Mike Foster was governor. Kathleen Blanco didn't do it, and Gov. Bobby Jindal has dealt with budgetary issues since he took office in January 2008, limiting his ability to direct adequate dollars to the state's colleges and universities.
But Jindal – and the Legislature, too – can save face by stepping up to the plate and letting it be known that there is room for only one Flagship university in Louisiana and that job is already taken.
Sam Hanna, Jr.
is publisher of The Ouachita Citizen
, and he serves in an editorial/management capacity with The Concordia Sentinel
and The Franklin Sun
, three newspapers owned and operated by the Hanna family. Hanna can be reached by calling (318) 805-8158 or by emailing him at email@example.com
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