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Millions to Attract Top Profs to Louisiana Universities Unused

SHREVEPORT La.—The Louisiana Board of Regents says $113 million donated to bring top professors to state universities is going unused.

The Times reports that money for 76 endowed chairs and 263 endowed professorships has been unused for at least two years.

The chairs are valued at $1 million to $3 million, and the professorships at $10,000 to $30,000 or more.

Deputy commissioner Kerry Davidson says he and the Board of Regents were surprised by the findings, which have prompted new rules. One is that, if a campus has more than 20 percent of its endowments unfilled for two years or more, it cannot qualify for a new chair or professorship.

Davidson said endowed chairs can attract top research professors, and endowed professorships can help keep those already employed.

But it’s not that easy to attract nationally recognized professors to fill chairs, university officials said.

Sometimes the difficulty is the regents’ requirements for national searches for professors who have national recognition and ranking in their fields, said Robert McKinney, University of Louisiana at Lafayette director of the Office of Academic Planning and Faculty Development. Also, a full professorship must either be created or opened by a faculty member’s retirement or departure.

Louisiana can be a hard sell, too.

“With no faculty merit increases, our salaries are not at the national average,” McKinney said. “We’ve had searches for chairs and identified some great candidates” but haven’t been able to finalize the deals because Louisiana salaries can’t compete.

“In the state, we’ve had a 10 percent drop in full-time tenured faculty,” largely because of better salaries in other states, McKinney said. “Professors go from campus to campus.”

UL-Lafayette last year focused on filling its available endowed professorships, primarily from within existing faculty, and this year “we are working on filling both” types of endowments, McKinney said.

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