LSU Rolling Full Steam Ahead On Consolidation

BATON ROUGE (AP) — As the year comes to an end, LSU is rolling full steam ahead, as they have filled deanships at the main campus level, given out faculty pay raises that has somewhat restored morale, privatized its hospitals and have gave life to a plethora of projects that will impact students, staff and the Baton Rouge community.

         LSU recently received reaccreditation for the next decade, after undergoing a two-year reaffirmation process that mainly scrutinized LSU's decision to combine its president and chancellor's position. There were concerns that a system president would not have enough time to be a full time chancellor on a main campus, but the university proved to The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, or SACSCOC, that such a job could be done efficiently.

         The individual to do the job was F. King Alexander, who celebrated his first year as LSU president and main campus chancellor on July 1 of this year. The LSU Faculty Senate, often critical of university policies, has been supportive of Alexander's moves so far. So far in Alexander's tenure, faculty members have received two pay raises, which they had not had one since 2008. Before the start of the current academic year, the president announced that faculty members would be receiving a three percent pay raise, a move that in the right direction to restore faculty morale.

         Along with the president positioned being merged, the university also consolidated its chief financial officer and its vice president of communications positions. All those moves were part of LSU's goal to create the "one LSU" concept, which brings all parts of the university system under one umbrella.

         Daniel Layzell was named the university's new vice president for finance and administration, making him the CFO for the main campus in Baton Rouge and statewide. Linda Bonnin was named vice president for strategic communications, making her chief of communications at the main campus and throughout the system.

         This year, LSU graduated its largest number of African Americans, Hispanics and women in May. In the fall, LSU's enrollment grew was up more than 30,0000, the first time since 2005 and is its third largest freshman class. LSU also had its most diverse student body ever this year.

         On the facility front, LSU was busy this year, either they were breaking ground, proposing new plans or opening facilities.

         In November, LSU officially broke ground on the $110 million renovation of Patrick F. Taylor Hall and construction of a chemical engineering addition. The announcement came after months of fundraising, which was jumpstarted when Phyllis M. Taylor made a $15 million gift commitment to honor the legacy of Patrick F. Taylor on April 20, 2013. The renovation and expansion is scheduled for completion in 2017.

         Recently, LSU also approved a plan to build a 22,500-square-foot, dining hall for athletes on the site of the old Alex Box Stadium, which will be called the Tigers Athletics Nutrition Center. The building, which is slated to cost $12 million, will be privately funded and will begin construction in April 2015.

         After years of struggling to commercialize faculty research throughout the campus, the university decided to change that tone and is investing $4 million in a fund that will help faculty members bring their research from the academic halls to the marketplace.

         In an effort to keep the best and brightest students in Louisiana, the university is improving its honors college, which received its largest gift of $12 million from Robert Ogden. The money will go towards making the honors college – which admits students with high grade point averages and ACT scores – a place where high achieving students want to go and begin their academic careers.

         Going forward, university officials say in 2015 they are planning to hire and recruit more faculty members.

         In June, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed off on legislation that would increase higher education funding by $40 million, which nearly $15 million has gone to LSU. The legislation created the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund – or WISE Fund. LSU is planning to add tenure-track positions in computer science, chemical engineering, petroleum engineering and kinesiology.

         In 2015, university officials say they hoping to increase collaboration and communication between K-12 and higher education institutions and begin a long-awaited renovation to the university's Studio Arts building, which had to close briefly for poor conditions.

         – by AP/ Reporter Quincy Hodges with Times-Picayune

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