Please consider sending a signed copy of the following letter to the relevant politicians. Maybe we can stop a Middlesex situation from happening to what is supposed to be the flagship school of the state of Louisiana.
Below I've got (1) links for how to contact some of the relevant poo-bahs, (2) an explanation of all the various things in Louisiana that make this such a Catch 22 (basically, the only way out of the knot is if the Legislature gives the schools the ability to raise non-tuition fees), and (3) a sample letter for people to use in crafting their own, one that I hope is likely to have resonance with people at the state and federal level who decide on the relevant policy for Louisiana.
If everyone reading this took an hour to cut-and-paste the letter into a Word document and minimally sent it to the president of the Louisiana Senate, the Governor of Louisiana, the Speaker of the Louisiana House, various federal Senators and Representatives, and anybody else you know that might make a difference, then there would be a decent chance they would actually do what they need to do instead of further destroying Higher Ed here (we've already lost several programs at LSU including German and Classics, and the philosophy program at ULL was shut down last year).
[Note #1: For a a list of all of your state and national representatives, go HERE and enter your snail address. The complete list will have links to webpages for their offices which all have instructions for contacting them. For Louisiana's Governor, go HERE and click on the button that says “interact” (on the right side of the screen just underneath the blue contact) and scroll down to “contact”. For a list of all Louisiana Legislators, with links go HERE . For a good macro for how to get letters to them go HERE.]
[Note #2, Backstory for why LSU is on the brink of exigency:
- Everything except for higher education and healthcare is at this point constitutionally protected from cuts in Louisiana, so cutting those other things requires 2/3ds votes of both legislative houses, while cutting higher education only requires simple majorities,
- but to get permission to raise higher education tuition or fees in Louisiana, both legislative houses need 2/3ds majorities,
- since tuition is covered by a state scholarship, any ability to raise that (as was given last year in 10% increments) just means that the equivalent amount is cut from direct expenditures to higher education,
- our administrators cannot impose mandatory furloughs with a change to state law (and as far as I know, nobody is talking about changing that law),
- every time tax receipts are artificially high (say due to temporarily high oil prices, federal relief for Hurricane and other environmental catastrophes, "stimulus," etc.) the various (Democratic and Republican) actors in the state cuts taxes,
- when oil prices go back to normal, federal relief runs out, or the business cycle just doesn't expand as much, then there are huge shortfalls, which (in the current climate of an unwillingness to raise taxes, revoke previous tax cuts, or even allow schools to raise non-tuition fees), have to now again all come out of higher education and healthcare,
- this dynamic has already resulted in over a 20% cut to higher education over these last few years,
- we've been told to budget for a 35% cut on top of that, which has produced plans to shut 50 (nobody knows which 50) programs, now with all of the tenured faculty being fired,
- I should state that I realize that everyone reading this will be horrified by administrative decisions to respond to financial pressure by changing curricula and closing programs (as opposed to making cuts across the board) a practice which, though widespread, directly contradicts several AAUP mandates; but I do hope that people can join me and focus on the immediate challenge of first saving the univeristy, and then worrying about faculty rights in what is left.]
Anyhow, I hope that it is not an abuse of this blog to beg readers to use the following letter as a macro to send to the relevant politicians. Please change it as you see fit! But even if you just send all of the representatives, senators, and the governor e-mails or signed hardcopies copies of this letter (with the represenative's name filled in in the salutation and third to last paragraph) it will make a difference!
I am writing in regard to the possible destruction of Louisiana State University and consequent severe degradation of the promise and prospects for everyone in this great state.
Clearly if either of the budget reduction scenarios currently being considered for the Baton Rouge campus comes to pass (under the thirty-five percent reduction scenario, resulting in a minimum of seven hundred employees fired without cause, fifty programs eliminated, and eight thousand students forced to study elsewhere), the ripple effect through the Baton Rouge economy would be traumatic and long-lasting. But it should also be equally clear that the lack of any meaningful flagship institution of higher education would be absolutely devastating for the entire state of Louisiana.
From Governors Foster through Jindal, a recurring theme of economic development efforts has been to diversify the economy. But if LSU Baton Rouge is destroyed, then the successful knowledge-driven companies essential to such diversification will be much less likely to form here, much less likely to stay, and absolutely unwilling to relocate here from states where educated citizens are in good supply. And make no mistake, after the roughly $42 million in cuts LSU Baton Rouge has absorbed in the past two years, further cuts of the order under discussion even prior to the latest exercise would for all intents and purposes mean the destruction of the institution.
Let us be clear about what is being proposed. Generations of Louisianans have taken their first steps in adulthood at LSU, learning what it means to be citizen, scientist, entrepreneur, artist, and the type of kind, literate human being that typifies Louisiana at her best. We need only look around at ourselves and friends to realize how LSU is implicated in the artistic, cultural, scientific, business, and political renaissance of this state. And we need only look at the benighted countries on this planet that do not have institutions such as LSU to know the absolute madness of the proposed cuts.
If anything, the administrators of the LSU system have vastly understated the magnitude of this crisis. The national and international community of researchers regards university tenure as a sacred compact. It often takes university professors as long to obtain tenure as it does for employees in other fields to become eligible for pensions. And researchers do this in universities for less (often far less) than half the pay that people with comparable skills make in industry. There are two reasons they do this: (1) love of being a full time educator and researcher, and (2) the sacred promise that if they are successful enough to receive tenure, then they can only be fired for cause.
If an institution such as LSU fires tenured professors without cause, especially without following the official American Association of University Professors guidelines for financial exigency, it is international news. It is such a rare thing that the community of research scientists and humanists worldwide will take note, and this will become an irrevocable stain on the state of Louisiana, nauseatingly visible to every single one of the creative class entrepreneurs that our economic development efforts have been trying to nurture and attract since Governor Foster’s governorship.
And it is crucial to realize that there is absolutely no reason that our state needs to put LSU in this position. Heaven and Earth do not need to be moved. Higher education in other states is facing equally serious budget shortfalls, and these shortfalls are being handled without exigency and without termination of faculty. For example, in California and Illinois a simple combination of allowing institutions to raise fees and imposition of employee furloughs (taken by faculty during non-teaching periods) have allowed campuses to avoid exigency. And the residents of Arizona recently voted to temporarily increase their state sales tax by one percent to prevent cuts to education, social services, and law enforcement (Proposition 100). These are but some of the ways exigency might be avoided here. As my representative/senator/governor, I implore you to use all of the power of your office to explore every possible option to avoid further cuts to Louisiana higher education.
Since, unlike in the case of other states, LSU can only do things like institute mandatory furloughs and raise fees with the vote of the Legislature and signature of the Governor, you hold the future of Louisiana in your hands. Please do your hardest to get legislation permitting such acts through and signed. As the above should make clear, the stakes are so dire that we are in a situation where none can stand on the sideline and wash their hands afterwards.
I know that fee hikes, furloughs, and even very modest tax increases might be initially unpopular. But we are facing events that would undermine the economic and social well being of this state for the foreseeable future. Surely it’s worth risking a little unpopularity to avoid such an outcome.
Thank you for your consideration.