LSU Presidential Finalist F. King Alexander told faculty Friday that he is here to learn from them, listen to them and to help them find money “no matter where it comes from.”
This was the last of three forums held for staff, students and faculty members at the University. Alexander said he is returning to California Saturday morning but thinks he will start at LSU the first week of July, if the Board of Supervisors approves the nomination March 27.
His nomination has caused concern among faculty. The Faculty Senate recently and unanimously passed a “no confidence” resolution in the Board of Supervisors for its ability to make the right decisions on academic leadership and the reorganization, among other reasons.
“There’s nothing I can do about that,” Alexander said. “I’m very collaborative. I’ve always worked with our faculty very closely. We need our faculty to understand the environment we’re in, and we need our faculty to work closely to develop solutions in these tough times.”
Alexander, who is the president at California State University Long Beach, told faculty that salary and retirement issues are a top concern.
“This is not just an LSU issue. All of us in higher education, we’ve been playing defense for four or five years now. We’ve all been dealing with no pay raises,” he said. “This is an important concern of mine.”
When asked how he expected to lead a research university without having done research or received tenure, Alexander said he had tenure now and said he has been involved in research projects.
“The beauty of tenure is that it protects our faculty from external pressure. Tenure gives us the freedom to challenge society, to make society a better place,” he said. “I have been involved in many research projects … I do not think you can be a great instructor without research. I still publish on the higher education front.”
Alexander said he has done research for the past 20 years and continues to do research in his current position.
Alexander has been president of California State University at Long Beach since 2006, and he was president of Murray State University in Kentucky from 2001 to 2005. He said higher education is essential to cities and states.
“California just experienced a 33 percent [budget] reduction in the last two years. Many states are in the process of not being in the business of higher education if the trend continues,” Alexander said. “When we give up on our public education, ultimately that will mean the demise of the cities, the demise of our states … Higher education is being seen as nothing but an individual benefit, but it’s not. It’s a societal benefit.