By Larry Burgess, Friends of Louisiana College
On May 1, Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard announced a pledge from an anonymous donor of $10 million.
As members of the LC family we offer congratulations to the school for securing such a wonderful contribution.
We pray that the administration and the Board of Trustees will use the funds wisely to begin resolving some of the more endemic problems facing Louisiana College.
Specifically, we would like to see the following issues addressed in a timely manner:
1. The physical plant. A study in September 2010 by Aramark Corp. identified over $28 million in repairs that were either critical or would become critical within three years. Most (if not all) of those items remain unaddressed almost three years later.
2. Faculty and staff salaries and health insurance. While faculty and staff salaries are not public knowledge, many have made it known that their salaries are significantly below what they would make elsewhere and many are dependent upon the government for health care. At the same time, the salaries of the administration have increased significantly over the past several years.
3. Expansion of academic programs. We hope that the trustees will take a hard look at whether graduate programs in medicine, law and film—and any other areas—are financially sustainable and realistic for a college of LC’s size. We hope that undergraduate programs will be the board’s priority, since they have served LC and the world so well for over 100 years. Other areas of expansion should be considered with attention to more profitable demands of the educational market, such as on-line learning and adult education programs.
Now that the Board of Trustees has apparently put the issues regarding the Cason Foundation money to rest, perhaps they can move on to addressing the more critical issues that have been raised by a concerned group of alumni, former faculty, staff, and students, of which I am a part, known as “Friends of the College.” This group maintains a Facebook page with almost 900 members. We would like the Board to give attention to the following concerns:
1. Increasing enrollment standards. ACT scores have declined since 2005 to the point that the 25th percentile scores for both English and Math fall below the point requiring remedial level courses.
2. Increasing retention rates. Retention rates have decreased to the point that LC’s retention rates are the lowest of all four-year colleges in the state and next to the bottom when compared to similar four-year Baptist schools across the South.
3. Increasing endowment. From 2005-2011, LC’s endowment decreased over 2.5 percent while endowment at similar schools has increased an average of 28 percent in the same period.
4. Increasing undergraduate enrollment. Undergraduate enrollment has been flat since 2005 while other schools are seeing an increase.
5. Increasing openness between the administration / Board of Trustees and the students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters. We have personally witnessed too many accounts of people being afraid to speak up because they or someone in their family was employed by LC or the Louisiana Baptist Convention and they were afraid of the repercussions.
6. Developing a culture that encourages honest questioning and investigation. We have heard too many stories of students not being encouraged to ask the honest and hard questions and faculty being reprimanded and/or terminated for encouraging their students to do so. This is not the culture that made LC the outstanding Christian liberal arts school that it was.
There has been much written and said about LC recently – most of it negative. If the administration and Board of Trustees are serious about LC’s future as a leading Christian liberal arts college, they have much work to do to repair the school’s image. That starts with openness and transparency.
As alumni of LC, there are many of us with extensive experience in the business and professional world who would be able and willing to assist with these efforts.
There are also former faculty and staff with experience in college administration who could be a great asset.
We encourage members of the board or the administration to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and allow concerned alumni, faculty and staff to be of assistance.
Until the administration and Board of Trustees are willing to openly and honestly admit that these issues exist and until they are willing to address these issues in an open manner, no amount of money – be it $10 million or $60 million – will solve Louisiana College’s problems.
Editor’s Note: Larry Burgess is a 1977 alumnus of Louisiana College. In an email to the Baptist Message Mr. Burgess wrote, “Our organization is evolving. We started with a Facebook group called LC Alumni and Friends. That group has grown to almost 900 members. From that we are in the process of forming ‘Friends of the College.’ The final form of FOTC is not there yet, but I am confident that I am speaking for all members of ‘Friends of the College.’”