BATON ROUGE – Several members of LSU’s Transition Advisory Team and a cross section of individuals from LSU System campuses met on Friday, April 19, with two representatives of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, Commission on Colleges. Belle Wheelan, president of the SACS Commission on Colleges, and Barry Goldstein, vice president, covered a variety of topics related to the SACS reaffirmation process and the potential implications of the LSU2015 process.
The meeting, which was held in the Vieux Carre’ Room of the LSU Student Union, was streamed live via the Internet for those who could not attend and meeting archives are available at www.lsu.edu/tat.
The meeting was called to address a number of wide-ranging questions concerning the LSU re-organization process and what LSU will look like after the completion of the transition.
William Jenkins, interim LSU System president and interim chancellor, welcomed the group and opened the floor for discussion with Wheelan and Goldstein.
“This is an important meeting at this stage in our restructuring process,” Jenkins said.
Wheelan, who is an LSU alumnus, thanked the Transition Advisory Team for inviting SACS in early in the process. She said that the reorganization won’t be easy, but it is a process worth considering.
“I encourage you to think of a new institution and stop thinking what’s already out there, and take this opportunity to dream,” Wheelan said.
Wheelan said that this is an opportunity to design a brand new institution and encouraged the team to think about the reorganization as a blank slate rather than trying to fit the current institutions into a new structure.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create this entity,” Wheelan said. “If you’re going to do it, you want to do it right the first time.”
She said that no matter how the new entity is designed, the focus should always be on students. Wheelan said that when people think of SACS in this process to imagine that SACS stands for “Students Are Central for Success.” She said to think about the students and what is going to be easiest and most appropriate for them.
“Focus on students, and keep it simple,” she said.
The SACS representatives said that there are a variety of systems that make up the commission, and they can work with each structure. Some things that SACS needs to know is whether LSU plans to accredit as one entity or multiple campuses; funding sources to be used; academic program structures; student-learning outcomes; and student support services, among others.
Wheelan urged the group to figure out what structure LSU wants to use up front in the process and that this would help to open the discourse amongst everyone in the system. She said that it’s important to start by defining the institution’s mission statement and that if LSU will be one entity, then each campus needs to fall under that mission, but can have different purposes.
Wheelan and Goldstein took questions on the differences among the academic institutions and the professional schools; examples of how other university systems have structured; defining branch campuses; and admission processes, among other topics.
“This has been very helpful to me, and I appreciate it,” said Shelby McKenzie, LSU System General Counsel. “I have a much better understanding of the process and what we need to consider.”
A large part of the conversation focused on substantive changes and how any substantive change affects reaffirmation. Goldstein said any change that is made that is different than what SACS currently knows is a substantive change.
It was determined that some of the efficiencies and streamlining that the Transition Advisory Team has been discussing in the various sub-committees wouldn’t qualify as substantive changes and therefore wouldn’t be a factor in reaffirmation.
Another major topic of conversation involved the role of the LSU President, since the position is now a combination of the LSU System president and the LSU chancellor.
Wheelan said that it does not matter what title the “CEO” of the organization has, but SACS needs LSU to demonstrate that there is a separation of duties for the president/chancellor. She said the nuances of the position will depend on structure.
Four institutions in the LSU System are currently going through the reaffirmation process, and both Wheelan and Goldstein encouraged them to continue with that process. Once decisions are made on the reorganization, they can be addressed with SACS, but any changes are still far enough off that those institutions should proceed with their accreditations.
Everyone thanked the SACS representatives for taking the time to visit LSU and attend the meeting to address their questions relative to the reorganization. Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants reminded the group that no decisions have been made and that it is still early in the process.
The Transition Advisory team, a 10-member panel tasked with providing information to the LSU Board of Supervisors to facilitate the reshaping of the LSU System, is meeting for the sixth time. The team held its initial meeting on Jan. 8, an Immersion Workshop on Feb. 7, its third meeting on Feb. 19, its fourth meeting with Ohio State University President Gordon Gee by Skype on March 6, and its sixth meeting on April 16, featuring Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute, and Stephen Moret, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development.
Agendas for this and all LSU2015 sub-committee and task force group meetings can be found at http://www.lsu.edu/LSU2015/subcommittees_meeting_schedule.shtml. The names of Transition Advisory Team Sub-Committee members, along with Task Force Group members, are available at http://www.lsu.edu/LSU2015/subcommittees.shtml.
More information on LSU’s reorganization process can be found at http://www.lsu.edu/LSU2015. Information on the site includes meeting schedules, minutes and video and presentations from past meetings. Also, visit LSU’s reorganization Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/LSU2015transition.