For those who attend any university, student government groups can be a great way for young people to get a basic introduction to the realities of politics.
Those lessons aren’t always pretty, as we were reminded by a recent news release from LSU’s student government organization. It was meant as an alarm bell about the shameful condition of the university’s Middleton Library — a disgrace that should fill every resident of Louisiana with shame.
The library’s been in sad shape for years, as a generation of cutbacks in state support for higher education left universities unable to cope with aging infrastructure. The crisis at Middleton entered a new phase last fall, when groundwater intruded into the basement, threatening vital research materials.
“Some materials, including government documents, that once lived in the basement have been relocated,” LSU Student Government noted in its statement this month. “After three months, the water intrusion continues to worsen. Middleton Library is an integral part of a student’s experience here at LSU and these issues need to be addressed now, not just taken care of in years to come.”
“LSU students remember the first weekend of November 2018 as the Saturday the Tigers lost to the University of Alabama 29-0,” Sheridan Wall of The Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, noted in a Jan. 30 story. “While LSU football fans despaired over this crushing loss, on the other side of campus, water was seeping through the basement of Middleton Library ... months later, water is still coming in through the north wall of the library basement room 53. The wall, once concealed by shelves stocked with government documents, now sits bare, the floor surrounding it stripped of tile. Puddles pool at the base of the wall, around the abandoned service desk and between the stacks.”
“I can’t overstate what an emergency it is and the danger it poses to this incredibly wonderful research library,” Stanley Wilder, dean of LSU libraries, told The Reveille. “We’re in crisis mode down there.”
Wall’s mention of LSU’s football tradition invites a sobering spotlight on the university’s priorities. If LSU’s athletic facilities were as ramshackle as Middleton, Tiger fans would take to the streets with pitchforks. The willingness of LSU’s supporters to tolerate a leaking library where water threatens the books underscores why Louisiana so often lags behind its peers in national higher education rankings.
This is the time of year when high school seniors are visiting college campuses and deciding where they’d like to spend the next four years. LSU’s leaky library sends an unflattering message to those prospective students about what the university holds dear — and what it doesn’t.