LSU reorganization panel begins its work

BATON ROUGE (AP) — An advisory panel that will offer guidance to the LSU System board about ways to reorganize the system and its campuses started its work Tuesday with a tight timeline, expected to provide its first recommendations by March.

The 10-person group, formally called the Transition Advisory Team, will talk to higher education experts, comb through previous studies and look at other university models as it suggests restructuring proposals to the Board of Supervisors.

LSU’s system-wide reorganization comes after five years of state budget cuts across Louisiana colleges and universities that have forced program closures, staff shrinkage and concerns that systems will have to retool if they want to avoid sustained damage to higher education.

“If we don’t adapt quickly and decisively to what is upon us, we could find ourselves in very serious trouble,” LSU System Interim President William Jenkins told the advisory group.

The Board of Supervisors has decided to merge the jobs of system president and chancellor of the flagship campus in Baton Rouge as part of a planned, but still uncertain, revamp of the multi-campus university system.

Though the redesign hasn’t yet been fleshed out, a search is ongoing for a new president who will help oversee the system’s reorganization.

The advisory panel will meet monthly, to complete a final list of recommendations in July, about the same time a new president could be hired.

Members will take a look at a reorganization plan proposed by a Washington, D.C.-based consultant hired by the LSU System, but that consolidated leadership structure has raised concerns and criticism, and Jenkins has said it likely won’t be used.

Transition group members include Jenkins, current and former LSU leaders, the lead counsel for the LSU System, business leaders with ties to LSU campuses and a retired Army general.

Jim Firnberg, a panel member and chancellor emeritus of LSU-Alexandria, said the group will need to bring in other higher education leaders who have gone through similar reorganization efforts and accreditation officials to ensure LSU is meeting standards.

Advisory group member Lee Griffin, a former bank chairman and president of the LSU Foundation, said a reorganization plan should be devised quickly because consolidations drum up worries and discontent with staff.

“The rumors are ruthless and cause so many problems with employees, so the faster you can get this done, the better,” he said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the panel heard from SSA Consultants, hired by the LSU board to work with the advisory panel; got a presentation from an outside expert on changes in higher education; and received a primer on the open meetings and public records laws that will govern their work.

Subcommittees are planned to meet around the state, to gather information for the advisory panel as well.

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