If the idea of Louisiana as a technology hub takes some getting used to, a new LSU facility devoted in large part to a single business is also something that makes the Electronic Arts building now under construction quite unusual.
The profit motive can be looked at by traditionalists as inappropriate for the purity of the pursuit of truth that is the noble aspiration of universities.
But if there is any unease about the admixture, there is also the fact that space on the main campus of a major university is always at a premium. Many other campuses, though eager for private-sector contributions and partnerships, might well have blanched at giving up precious square footage for a building that will house a profit-making business. That LSU gave up that space for the new building that will house the North American testing facility for EA, a computer gaming giant, is a good decision that ought to work out well not only for the company but for the university.
At about $30 million, mostly in state funds, the Louisiana Digital Media Center will house EA’s approximately 400 employees — counting part-timers — and will allow the company to grow.
The center also will house LSU’s advanced computing center as well as classrooms and work spaces. It will be be located on the southeast corner of the campus near the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center and the John M. Parker Coliseum. EA is temporarily housed on the south campus on GSRI Avenue.
Count us as conservative when it comes to too much private-sector influence on campuses. After all, LSU as the state’s flagship university must be a source of disinterested knowledge about our state and the larger world, not in hock to a corporate sponsorship. Businesses should be partners but not intrusive meddlers on either the physical space or the philosophical nature of what a university does. But because of the affinity of young people for computer games, and the entrée provided into a global industry that those EA jobs provide — even for part-timers — this seems a good exception to the rule against excessive fraternization.
“The cross-pollination of ideas between academic research experts and the world’s leading game development company has the potential to fuel digital media innovation in exciting and unanticipated ways,” said Adam Knapp, president and chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.
It does have that potential, and we hope both the university and EA will work hard on making sure their cohabitation works for both partners, and for the state as a whole.