BATON ROUGE, LA — Southern University’s separate management board is safe for now, but college administrators aren’t sure it will survive.
Gov. Mike Foster (R) tried to reduce the number of higher education management boards in Louisiana from four to one. A bill that would have brought this about, and backed by Foster, was voted down during a recent special session of the state Legislature.
Foster wants to create a 23-member Board of Governors to replace: * The Board of Supervisors for Southern University;
· The Board of Supervisors for Louisiana State University;
· * The Board of Trustees that governs Grambling University and 11 other campuses; and
· * The Board of Regents that coordinates the three separate systems.
· Under Foster’s plan, the state’s higher education institutions would be grouped into five separate tiers according to role, scope and mission.
· The proposed Board of Governors would oversee all campuses. Nina Hebert-Marchand, chairwoman of Southern University’s board of supervisors, expects Foster will hold another special session after the upcoming regular session to consider only education issues — such as the new board system. Hebert-Marchand believes the present multiple-board system protects Southern. “We’re charged with educating African-American students, something we do so well. Let’s give the existing structure the chance to work,” she said.
· Backers of Foster’s plan say a single board would decrease turf battles and increase efficiency in the management of the more than 20 higher education campuses.
· The state Board of Regents has expressed concern that the overhaul could violate a college desegregation settlement in which the state agreed to spend more money on its historically Black colleges.
· Southern’s board has consistenly opposed the plan, saying it would weaken universities that attract disadvantaged Black students.
· Hebert-Marchand notes that the various boards are constantly facing budget cuts. “Obviously the right kind of money hasn’t been put into higher education. When they cut funds, they always cut education,” she said. “Why change the structure, if the structure isn’t the problem?” she asks.
· Southern’s board of supervisors is responsible for a $50-million-plus budget, academic programs and guiding the mission of the university’s four campuses.
· Hebert-Marchand said the proposed single board would only have six or seven minorities, some of whom could be white women or other minority groups. “I’m not sure they would bring to the table what the Southern management board can bring for Southern.”
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