LSU Chancellor Michael Martin said Thursday that adding Louisiana Tech University into the LSU System could make for a stronger flagship university in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana Tech could essentially swap spots with the University of New Orleans, which is expected to move into University of Louisiana System if legislation is finalized next week. A Tech transfer could not be approved until next year.
“I see some benefit,” Martin said during a Chancellor-Staff Senate Forum on Thursday at the LSU Student Union. “We are more similar than all the other institutions in the state.”
Last week, Louisiana Tech President Dan Reneau and others acknowledged a “resurgence” of interest in Tech joining the LSU System.
“There’s some collaborations I believe we can do better if Tech were in our system,” Martin said. “I believe we need to look at some of those things and so does Dan.”
They have discussed expanded collaborations in nanotechnology, biomedical engineering and other fields.
An LSU System-commissioned study five years ago suggested the Tech-UNO swap as a way of setting up a possible three-way merger of Louisiana Tech, LSU at Shreveport and the LSU Health Sciences Center at Shreveport.
The legislative session has been full of proposals to merge universities and consolidate higher education systems and boards into a “superboard,” all of which were defeated, except the UNO transfer.
But Martin said he does expect more movement in the future.
“It’s a little bit like the realignment of football programs in the athletic conferences,” Martin said.
He said he is not sure of the ideal higher education structure, but that there are “peculiar” aspects now, such as LSU at Eunice community college and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center fitting in the same system.
Many UNO supporters believe the college has been mistreated in the LSU System and could better thrive — academically and athletically — in the UL System with schools like the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“I understand their frustrations,” Martin said, before he argued that there is a lot of misinformation about UNO struggling because of the perception is it is ignored in favor of the main LSU campus.
The anticipated UNO transfer started out as a proposed merger by Gov. Bobby Jindal between UNO and Southern University at New Orleans. But once that plan was defeated, it was salvaged and rewritten into the UNO transfer.
Overall, and despite budget cuts, Martin said LSU is making gains and growing its enrollment.
But, again going with the sports comparison, Martin said LSU must act like its own athletics department and focus on fewer things. LSU has 20 scholarship athletics programs, unlike many peers that try to have 25 or so sports.
“Whatever we’re going to do, we’re going to do it first class,” Martin said.
That may mean doing fewer overall things academically, he said.
“It’s not always going to be comfortable, and it’s not always going to be optimal at the time,” Martin said, “but we have to take a long-term view.”