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Belle Wheelan: Merging of LSU president and University chancellor roles is ‘awkward’

Structural changes could affect accreditation

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  • F. King Alexander

    F. King Alexander listens to The Transition Advisory Team on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2013 5:14 pm

Combining the roles of LSU president and University chancellor is “awkward” and creates difficulty for President-elect F. King Alexander to distinguish between his two roles, accreditation officials said at a Transition Advisory Team meeting Friday.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the agency that grants accreditation to the University, met with the Team to discuss potential structural changes that could affect how the institution is accredited in the future.

For the University to continue receiving accreditation, it must meet SACS standards and policies.

Admissions standards, sports programs and state appropriations were among the topics of discussion touched upon by SACS President Belle Wheelan, Transition Advisory Team members and representatives from University campuses at the meeting.

However, while the Transition Advisory Team examines different focus areas of the System that could be more efficient and effective, most of their business will not actually affect accreditation at all, said SSA Consultant Christel Slaughter.

The Team’s ideas can be implemented as soon as they are fully conceptualized without any consequence to accreditation, said Interim System President and Chancellor William “Bill” Jenkins.

The Board of Supervisors and Board of Regents are the entities that have ultimate control over major structural changes to the University.

“This is probably going to take legislative changes,” Wheelan said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Wheelan said one institution means things like rules, regulations, academic policies and recruiting materials must be uniform throughout the System. It also means state appropriations money would come straight to LSU rather than to separately accredited institutions like LSU Alexandria, LSU Eunice or LSU Shreveport, as they do now.

Being one entity means there is one set of admissions standards for the University, although it can have different requirements for separate programs.

Reorganization changes could also affect sports programs.

“If there’s only one entity, there can only be one sports team,” Wheelan said.

Despite Wheelan’s warnings, the Board of Supervisors recently approved additional sports programs at other campuses.

Friday’s meeting with SACS made reorganization leaders aware of the implications of structural changes, although no official changes have been made other than merging the position of System president and University chancellor.

The Team must decide up front what the redefined structure will be and then decide how the various LSU entities will work together, Wheelan said. The University’s separate institutions can continue to be accredited separately or could be accredited as one, she said.

“Changing it such that Dr. Alexander is going to be both the president of the System and the CEO of the campus is awkward,” Wheelan said. “The primary responsibility of the CEO is to the institution, not to the organization. It becomes difficult to know which hat you’re wearing.”

Alexander’s dual role could create a conflict of interest, potentially disadvantaging other campuses if he cannot distinguish between his two jobs, Wheelan said.

 “How is that going to work?” Wheelan asked. “If Eunice has a problem, would there be an issue with King acting as chancellor and president?”

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