GONE PECAN: LSU Chancellor Martin Is Hitting The Road

We’ve been chronicling the changes at LSU in several recent posts, including an overview of the direction the Jindal administration wants to move the university in and a couple of posts on former LSU system president John Lombardi’s ouster, including some video of the testimony at a House committee many feel was the last straw which led to the LSU Board of Supervisors sacking him two days later.

Another shoe is dropping in LSU’s leadership structure today, as word has it that LSU chancellor Michael Martin, a Lombardi protege brought to Baton Rouge from his former perch at New Mexico State, will be decamping for colder climes this summer.

WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge is saying Martin confirmed he’s been approached by another university, but wouldn’t confirm what everybody is saying – namely, that the university in question is Colorado State.

LSU Chancellor Michael Martin has confirmed he is being considered for a job at another university.

In a statement to 9NEWS, Martin says “I was approached by another university about a leadership position and agreed to listen to what they had to say. I have not received nor have I sought an offer from any other university.”

Sources say that other university is likely Colorado State, but Martin would not confirm that.

This news comes a little over a week after the LSU Board of Supervisors voted to fire System President John Lombardi. Several board members told WAFB they believe Lombardi was ousted at the request of Governor Jindal because he disagreed with some of his plans for public education.

Martin has been Chancellor at LSU for almost four years. Prior to that, Martin was President of New Mexico State University. Martin has kept faculty and staff at LSU updated in recent months on frequent State budget cuts that have affected LSU and other parts of higher education in the state.

And the Baton Rouge Advocate had a statement from Martin confirming that he’s talking to people somewhere…

LSU Chancellor Michael Martin said in a statement Tuesday he was approached by another university about a job and he agreed to listen.

“I have not received nor have I sought an offer from any other university,” Martin said in the statement.

The Advocate’s story also included a quote from one of their go-to guys, LSU Board of Supervisors member Alvin Kimble – an appointment of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco whose six-year term is up next month…

Alvin Kimble, a member of LSU’s Board of Supervisors, said he heard Martin was on his way out of LSU as recently as two weeks ago.

Kimble said Tuesday night that he believes the Louisiana Flagship Coalition, a group of about 50 statewide business leaders that formed last year to support LSU’s main campus in Baton Rouge, was involved.

“I was told that Michael Martin would be the next to go,” Kimble said. “The flagship coalition wants to consolidate positions of the chancellor and the president.” They can’t go looking with a sitting chancellor in place. It looks like the flagship coalition is pursuing its agenda, he said.

The news of Martin’s wandering eye comes on a day in which a bill to move LSU-Shreveport out of the LSU system and fuse it with Louisiana Tech cleared the House Education committee over the somewhat muted objections of the LSU system people on a 14-4 vote…

The 14-4 vote by the House Education Committee Tuesday moves House Bill 964 to the full House of Representatives. The merger is the product of a broad coalition of business and civic groups in Shreveport and Ruston, and it has the backing of the Louisiana Board of Regents, the umbrella body of gubernatorial appointees with limited authority over the state’s three university systems. LSU System leaders, who have watched their considerable sway in Capitol affairs wane in recent years, want to hold on to the Shreveport campus. Gov. Bobby Jindal has not publicly taken a position.

Shreveport lawmakers and business leaders pitched the proposal as a way to revitalize a university they say is neglected in an LSU System dominated by the Baton Rouge campus and medical enterprises. House Budget Chairman Jim Fannin’s bill contemplates a maximum five-year schedule to complete the merger, beginning with an almost immediate transfer of the campus from the LSU to the UL System. The merger would not affect the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport.

“We all agree on this: A vibrant four-year university is required” for northwest Louisiana, Shreveport cardiologist Phillip Rozeman, an LSU-Shreveport alumnus, said. “We believe there is great potential in this, and we think it’s more likely to be unleashed if the management system is Louisiana Tech instead of the current LSU System.”

What’s most instructive about HB 964 moving today is that the Flagship Coalition folks, like Jindal, took no position on the bill. But a study of a potential Louisiana Tech-LSUS merger had expressed that while moving Tech into the LSU system and then fusing Tech and LSUS could work, the “One LSU” vision the Flagship Coalition has been wanting to make happen would create a murky environment for Tech to enter.

Ergo, LSUS gets offloaded to Tech – and Tech potentially migrates to Shreveport over time as a stronger academic institution. Which is interesting, as many of the folks in Ruston have been spoiling for a larger role in the state’s higher education picture but might feel it a bittersweet victory to achieve that role at the price of turning the Ruston campus into something of a community college.

Call that last bit “informed speculation,” if you will. In any event, Martin’s move and the LSU-Shreveport bill indicate the restructuring of the LSU system is proceeding even faster than people expected just two months ago.

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