LSU flagship campus gets insurance-buying autonomy _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The LSU Campanile.

LSU alumni leaders have set out on a six-step plan for overhauling the university’s Alumni Association in the wake of a sex scandal and lawsuit that made headlines this fall.

New Alumni Association President Cliff Vannoy reviewed the proposal during the LSU Board of Supervisors meeting Friday. The plan includes revamping the organization’s employee manual to outline legal and moral principles, building up chapter participation and remodeling the Cook Conference Center and Hotel.

Key among the new plan, as it relates to the lawsuit filed against the association and its former leader, Charlie Roberts: Alumni Association employees are now undergoing sexual harassment training and won’t be paid severance.

Roberts resigned in August amid allegations that he paid a former Alumni Association employee to keep their sexual relationship a secret. A judge eventually threw out former employee Kay Heath’s lawsuit, but the allegations were a black eye for the group, which previously faced little oversight. An independent audit later determined that no association funds were improperly spent.

Vannoy on Friday said the lawsuit “overshadowed the good work done by most of our staff members and our board” — propelling the need for a shake-up in how the organization operates.

“We believe that the Alumni Association leadership and Board of Directors has been very prudent in our actions,” he said of the revamp plan.

The university’s three biggest fundraisers, the LSU Foundation, Tiger Athletic Foundation and the Alumni Association, operate as nonprofits separate from the university, an arrangement that allows them a layer of protection from operating as public entities.

LSU is now in the process of creating a new vice president of institutional advancement position on the system level, and that person also will serve as chief executive officer of the LSU Foundation, the biggest of the fundraising groups. A hire is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Some have questioned what the transition will mean for the future of the various alumni groups. Four longtime board members recently left the board amid the changes.

No members of the LSU Board of Supervisors commented on Vannoy’s presentation Friday nor asked questions about the changes.

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander, a driving force behind the university’s growing influence over its fundraising arms, has been critical of the university’s fundraising efforts.

LSU raised about $73 million last year through its outside fundraising efforts.

Vannoy said new efforts include trying to jump-start local chapters that have languished in recent years and encourage more participation from younger alumni.

“The potential for success here is huge,” Vannoy said. “We’re going to call on all alumni to make a difference.”

A recent online push spurred 660 new donors who went on to become new Alumni Association members, he said.

Outside consultants will start work in January to identify areas where the Alumni Association can better serve alumni, future alumni and the university.

The Lod Cook Hotel, which first opened in August 2001 and is where LSU football players stay the night before home games, will undergo a renovation and new marketing plan. Vannoy said efforts are still in early stages, but he expects a budget for the project will soon be set.

“At LSU, we deliver excellence,” he said of the plans for “stellar” accommodations at the Cook Center.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.