Thursday, 20 April 2017 14:53
Is LSU's Prez. Alexander on his way out with St. George, Baton Rouge remark?
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alexanderHe might as well take out a full page advertisement announcing it: my singular uber-boss (although he serves under two collective entities), Louisiana State University Pres. F. King Alexander, apparently is on the market for a new job.

There seems no other way to explain comments he made yesterday during a symposium regarding the intersection of race and public policy. The main speaker, Baton Rouge Mayor-Pres. Sharon Broome, broached a number of topics.

But at one point, Alexander interjected something Broome hadn’t addressed: the 2015 petition by residents representing most of the unincorporated area of East Baton Rouge, styling themselves as creating “St. George,” to form their own municipality. Without prompting, Alexander volunteered that “We worked together successfully about a year and a half ago to make sure the city wasn't split in half” and then, by way of mentioning a documentary that alleged racist motives behind the incorporation drive, asked Broome how to prevent a similar future attempt. By law, no such try can occur prior to this summer, an effort past organizers have signaled they will resume.

Disappointingly, Alexander made a factually incorrect statement – the St. George movement did not seek to deconstruct Baton Rouge in any way – but, worse, his remarks demonstrated some very ham-handed politicking. By admitting open opposition to forming a new city and especially in associating its ethos with a television program that cast racist aspersions onto the founding of St. George, Alexander risked alienating a large base of support for LSU in particular and higher education in general.

It certainly threw a new light onto his actions in 2014 to have LSU land outside city boundaries annexed into it, depriving a future St. George of the opportunity to draw revenues from the parcel, according to former Metro Councilman Ryan Heck. In a guest column at The Hayride website, Heck wrote that he and others on the body suspected that request came from antipathy to St. George, in that disqualifying this area as part of the incipient city would make it appear less viable an entity, even as Alexander explained he just wanted the entire campus under the same jurisdiction.

As Heck pointed out, a number of lawmakers of which the fate of LSU rests in their hands supported the ability of citizens to form their own city, and Alexander’s comments, especially in signaling implicit agreement with the thesis of racist undertones to the St. George matter, acted as an insult of them. Further, Alexander’s remarks denigrated the potential LSU donor base residing in the area that tried to incorporate; giving to LSU has become a touchy subject of his presidency as LSU and its system continue to lag almost all flagship universities and systems in the country in fundraising, especially in per capita terms. Telling a large nearby pocket of alumni and/or actual and potential donors they’re social pariahs for rebelling against unresponsive government isn’t exactly the best way of rectifying that shortcoming.

However, he might impress one group with this candor: hiring committees of university systems. Especially in areas that pride themselves on adopting what they feel the most fashionable ideas, regardless that fact and logic don’t support such notions, in their striving to achieve trendiness such mandarins like to see their top officials spout rhetoric consistent with the party line. Regurgitating the myth that racist considerations play any significant role in public policy-making in America today – and especially pernicious attempts that imply alternative explanations to liberalism that more validly explain how the real world works are illegitimate because these somehow connote a hidden form of “racism” – in much of academia to its closed minds makes one look enlightened.

Thus, with his remarks either Alexander was trying to pad his credentials for a move to a higher-paying gig elsewhere, particularly in states with leftist elites in charge, or he’s exceptionally politically clumsy. Considering the latter doesn’t inspire confidence in the minds of those who employ him, either way he might not be long in his current position.

Jeffrey Sadow

Jeffrey Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.   He writes a daily conservative blog called Between The Lines

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