The Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee spoke via Skype to the LSU Transition Advisory Team at the team’s March 5 meeting. He was asked to speak about how The Ohio State University System is organized and his efforts in restructuring the System some years ago.
LSU Interim President and Chancellor William L. Jenkins brought the meeting to order, team member Jim Firnberg introduced Gee, and Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants facilitated the meeting.
In his talk, Gee referenced the deficit in this country, the student debt crisis and the fact that states are limited in their resources as factors that have impacted our society in general and higher education in particular. “The world has changed dramatically and I do not believe the world will go back to the way that it was,” Gee said.
The positive aspect to those changes is that they present opportunities, Gee said. “I’ve been a university president for half my life, 30 years, and at no time have I felt more empowered and more energized by the opportunities confronting higher education. We have to confront that change,” he said.
“Your power is in your size,” Gee said of LSU, emphasizing how the various campuses of LSU need to work together, as they are all front doors to the university. “There is a difference in being centralized and being centrally driven. There has to be a common way to deal with things.”
Gee mentioned the geographic distance between LSU’s campuses as part of the challenge of them working together, and stressed the necessity of keeping the mission of each campus in mind. “The fundamental question is how they can contribute to the whole rather than how they can pull you apart. They need to realize they are not in competition with each other,” Gee said.
He said the two major problems he most often sees in large public universities are complacency, or doing things the same old way, and lack of curiosity among otherwise curious educators about how to structure and reform higher education.
Gee also emphasized the importance of hiring an experienced university president to lead a newly reorganized LSU, and warned that the most talented people will not want to put themselves through a public search process.
“It’s a very brave, courageous thing you’re doing,” Gee told the Transition Advisory Team, noting the “structural and political impediments” facing the team throughout the process. “I am personally energized by what you’re doing, because it’s important. You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to launch LSU into a new stratosphere.”
Gee is widely considered one of the most highly experienced and respected leaders in higher education, having been named by Time Magazine as one of the top 10 university presidents in the country in 2009.
After Gee’s talk, Transition Advisory Team members unanimously commented on how valuable it was to hear from Gee, how impressed they were by his comments and how much they learned from his experience of reorganizing OSU.
The meeting was streamed live online, and questions for Gee were taken not only from those present at the meeting, but also from those watching the live stream.
Also during the meeting, Transition Advisory Team members reported on the progress thus far of the subcommittees and task force groups on which they sit.
More information on LSU’s re-organization process can be found at www.lsu.edu/LSU2015.