There are 16 LSU Board of Supervisors members, and all but one are selected by Gov. Bobby Jindal. But House Bill 588, authored by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, would limit the governor’s power and enforce qualifications for all postsecondary education management boards.
Each board comprises two members from each congressional district, one from the state at large and one student member — the student being the only of these members not appointed by the governor.
Carter also filed House Bill 696, a companion bill that would mandate at least seven Board members meet one of the following criteria: a master of business administration degree, earn a degree from the system they oversee, have at least five years of experience as chief executive of a large corporation or five years as an executive in the public sector.
House Bill 696 would also have one board member recommended jointly to the governor by the Public Research Affairs Council, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and Council for a Better Louisiana.
Colorado State University System Chancellor and former University Chancellor Michael Martin saw the board transition with Jindal appointees and said this legislation could help the University.
Martin left the University after the board fired System President John Lombardi, who was reportedly ousted for disagreeing with Jindal’s higher education plan.
Martin said the governor’s major contributors dominate the board, and members should have different opinions on higher education. If not, the University could suffer serious consequences.
“The singular characteristic needed was to have donated to the governor’s campaign,” Martin said. “We have to think more about the longer term stake of the stakeholder.”
He also said board members should be diverse in race, gender and their opinions on higher education. The board’s diversity shows what the University cares about from the people they represent to the visual effect the board casts.
According to the state’s constitution, the board should represent the state’s population through race and gender to promote diversity.
There are currently 15 white males on the board, one of whom is a student member, and one African-American female.
“This is the people’s University as well. It should represent the state,” Martin said. “A standard socioeconomic group does not represent the people that the public land grant should serve.”
As for previous experience qualifications, board member Chester “Lee” Mallett said all present supervisors currently meet the bill’s proposed criteria, and the board is diverse in professional backgrounds.
“If people are running businesses in the state of Louisiana, they will take the best interest in the University,” Mallett said.
He said the board has been able to tackle difficult issues regarding University hospitals, and members’ business backgrounds helped the board find solutions, without compensation.
“I’m not compensated and I’m not asking to be compensated,” Mallett said. “They should be proud there are businessmen who can stop their daily lives and help the state of Louisiana.”
Former board member Alvin Kimble claimed to have seen Jindal manipulate board members when he was nominated as chairman.
After several members gave Kimble their word on their vote for him, they changed their minds when Kimble alleges Jindal’s assistant spoke with members behind closed doors to nominate member John George as chairman.
There were three meetings with an eight-to-eight vote between Kimble and George, and finally Blake Chatelain put himself up for chairman and won the votes, Kimble said.
He said the governor’s actions to advocate for a chairman were illegal, yet the members who voted for George were reappointed.
“It could have been an absolute disaster,” Kimble said.
He said members should be limited to six-year terms so there is no room for manipulation from the governor when members want to be reappointed.
Kimble said the pressure to adhere to the governor’s wishes was specific to the Jindal administration, and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco never called him to advocate for certain issues.
He saw the board change into a group of people who could not agree on anything and played politics, hurting the University and higher education.
Former board member Anthony “Tony” Falterman said allowing the governor to appoint board members does not lead to the University’s best interest, but makes the board political.
During Falterman’s time, he said he saw the board vote without discussion, working as Jindal’s political pawns to advance his agenda.
“It’s all political and that’s what the governor wants. That’s what he is going to get,” Falterman said. “Do you think the people he appointed would deny him?”
If all board members have the same opinion as the governor, Martin said there is no need for multiple members.
Jindal’s office declined to comment to The Daily Reveille on the legislation for this story.