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|LSU's diminishing influence?|
It was more than a bit telling when the House Education Committee voted 14-4 Tuesday to advance legislation that would pave the way for the merger of La. Tech University and Louisiana State University at Shreveport.
At the very least, it gave us a few things to think about.
The first to come to mind is the possibility that former LSU President John Lombardi, who was fired just a couple of weeks ago, did more damage to LSU's relationship with the Legislature than we originally realized. Remember, one of the reasons given for Lombardi's dismissal was his dismissive attitude toward state lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's staff, who, as we all know, like to have their hind sides kissed from time to time. That's not anything new. That's the way it's always been.
It's possible as well that the House Education Committee was swayed Tuesday by the testimony in support of Rep. Jim Fannin's bill to merge Tech and LSU-S. After all, Tech President Dan Reneau and company did a very good job in making their cases why the two institutions should be merged.
We would be overlooking the obvious, though, if blamed Lombardi or credited the Tech community for Fannin's bill sailing out of committee by such a large margin. The obvious is staring us in the face.
That is the LSU community's problem is far bigger than Lombardi or interim LSU President William Jenkins or any other individual or personality. To put it bluntly, the problem primarily concerns LSU's diminishing influence throughout the state.
There are a number reasons why LSU does not wield as much influence as it once did, especially among members of the Legislature. It would be fruitless to rehash it all at this time.
Instead, the LSU community should focus on the obvious, meaning it must regroup and commit to reestablishing LSU's place in the world of Louisiana politics. Make no mistake, higher education in Louisiana represents everything political.
The LSU community could take a step in that direction if the alumni, myself included, got off their rears and reached out to their lawmakers, expressing their disgust with the treatment the state's Flagship university has received at the Capitol and at the state Board of Regents of late. Without a doubt, lawmakers pay attention to their constituents, especially constituents who donate money to their campaigns. It's amazing how that happens.
There's more, including the role Louisiana's Flagship Coalition plays in all of this.
Remember the Flagship Coalition?
It was established not too long ago to raise awareness about the importance of the Louisiana's one and only Flagship university, LSU. Of course, the coalition raises money to do its bidding. Lots of money.
There are some very influential people aligned with the coalition, but some of those individuals harbor a silly notion that LSU should reduce its footprint in Louisiana and focus the bulk of its attention on the main campus in Baton Rouge. Most idiotic idea I may have ever heard.
Though Tuesday's vote in the House Education Committee was merely a first step among a number of steps in the legislative process for Tech and LSU-S to merge, it should serve as a prime example of what could occur to LSU's Flagship status if the coalition doesn't get its mind right and engage the political process and the court of public opinion in a big way.