At LSU, tension between university board and faculty remains high

Proposal to eliminate faculty organization is the latest controversy

By: - September 11, 2021 7:00 am

Remy Starns sits as the new chair for the LSU Board of Supervisors. (Photo by JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)

The LSU Board of Supervisors proposed — but then set aside — a motion to restructure the university’s faculty groups Friday after one professor complained the board was trying to silence them.

“This will cause national embarrassment for a university whose reputation is already at a low ebb because of the way this board responded to last year’s Title IX scandal,”said Bob Mann, a professor in Manship School of Mass Communication. “If you vote to abolish the faculty council, you will not silence the faculty.”

At LSU, the faculty has two representative bodies: the faculty senate and faculty council. The proposed resolution would have eliminated one of those representative bodies “at the choosing of the faculty,” but the board dropped the measure after hearing Mann’s complaints. 

“President (William) Tate, when you got here, you said you would emphasize research,” Mann said to the LSU president at Friday’s meeting. “Attacking faculty will have the opposite effect. You will undermine this university, alienate faculty and make it harder to attract those researchers and their grant dollars.”

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Tate, who was attending his second board meeting as president, said that having two representative bodies for the faculty was creating confusion. The resolution to eliminate one of the bodies would have brought “some clarity about who we engage with.”

“Quite frankly, I would never work at an institution where faculty governance was not a primary part of what we do,” Tate said. 

Still, the resolution was proposed at a time when the LSU board and its professors have been at odds over COVID-19 protocols on campus. 

The board initially refused the faculty council’s request to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students. A stricter vaccine policy was recently adopted, the supervisors still declined to let more professors teach their classes remotely because of the pandemic. 

Tate said the faculty and board should “find ourselves in a better state in terms of trust and being able to govern together” once there’s clarity on which representative body will speak for the faculty.

“I want to know who I should be talking to on a regular basis, and who represents the faculty so that we can govern together,” he said. “I have no intention of being president of this institution without that kind of capability.”

After the resolution had been tabled, Mandi J. Lopez, president of the LSU Faculty Senate, also addressed the board about students’ lack of compliance of COVID-19 mitigation measures “in terms of mask wearing and social distancing.”

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“The administration has tools and information to, not only identify, but mitigate problems with the lack of social distancing,” she said. “It’s time to prioritize social distancing at the highest level for the safety of our LSU.”

Board member Lee Mallett told Lopez that “we will do everything in our power to help the faculty, but at the same time, be more positive.”

“I think that sometimes you think we’re the adversary. We’re on the same team,” Mallett said to Lopez. “Several times at board meetings, it seems as though we’re at odds, and I don’t want to be at odds. I don’t think anybody on the board wants to be at odds.”

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.

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