Bobby Jindal is putting his personal stamp on Louisiana State University like no governor since Huey Long.
Long moved the campus from downtown Baton Rouge, hired and fired university presidents at will, but also invested large sums of money in his attempt to build the state’s flagship university into an institution that would at least mimic the great universities on the east and west coasts.
Jindal, on the other hand, has slashed higher education funding (shifting a larger tuition burden on students and their families), fired or driven off university presidents and system leaders who demonstrate any hint of protecting the system from his meddling. The cuts have gone so deep that the Tiger Athletic Foundation had to step in to provide some funding for the university to help maintain some semblance of academic funding commitment at the university.
Jindal is actively working to destroy the state’s public hospital system that LSU has operated since 1997. He’s used the Medicaid clawback to implement drastic cuts in the system that are aimed at crippling those hospitals before the 2014 provisions of the Affordable Care Act provide funding streams that would provide a sustainable path forward for them. About 1,500 workers at those hospitals will lose their jobs, in addition to hundreds of behavioral health workers.
The Governor’s decision to concentrate the Medicaid cuts necessitated by the clawback approved by Congress earlier this year has destabilized graduate medical education in the state. LSU’s graduate medical education program is due to have its accreditation reviewed next year and the accrediting agency has already notified the head of LSU’s hospital system that the deep cuts and hastily executed changes in residency programs is causing concern.
LSU’s Health Science Center Hospital in Shreveport recently lost its certification as a Tier One Trauma Center after years of budget cuts degraded the staffing and service levels needed to maintain that standing.
Despite indications that the cuts to the LSU Hospitals are wildly unpopular, the Legislature has proven itself unwilling or unable to intervene to stop the destruction of the public hospital system. There is a statutory threshold of 35% cuts that would enable the Legislature to intervene in the process. One Democratic lawmaker says that threshold has been crossed.
Now, with his hand-picked LSU Board of Supervisors firmly in charge of the system, the Governor has moved to reorganize the entire system with a plan that will concentrate power in Baton Rouge. The board recently moved to consolidate the position of LSU System President and Chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus on orders from the Governor — and apparently in violation of the state public meetings law.
Word in Baton Rouge for months has been that Jindal’s man for that new job is Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret.
The extent of Jindal’s meddling in the operation of the system itself has raised questions about whether the university can retain its accreditation (being free of political influence is a criteria for accreditation of public colleges and universities).
There are indications that community and business leaders across the state are alarmed by the rapid changes that are being designed out of public view and without public input. Like the voucher program approved this spring, like the health care cuts that have unfolded in late summer and early fall, the implications of the LSU reorganization have not been thought through.
Jindal has no ties to LSU. He never attended the school. The only experience he has with higher education in Louisiana was his ill-fated two-year stint as head of the University of Louisiana system during the Mike Foster administration.
These far-reaching changes will have a long-lasting impact on the state. With a subservient Board of Supervisors, Jindal is operating the LSU System like it is his personal playground.Jindal’s secretively conceived and recklessly implemented changes at LSU are going to have long lasting implications that will not be clear for years to come.
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Originally published: Nov 9, 2012