Editorial: Don’t let turf wars rule day in debate over future of LSUS

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Any current proposal regarding the future of LSU Shreveport requires some leap of faith.

Merge with Louisiana Tech University and you have to trust that research institution will follow up its promises of numerous additions to programs at the Shreveport campus and not short-change it in favor of its home base of Ruston.

Stay in the LSU System and you have to really believe that after 40 years “The Hunger Games” model is gone, that resources will no longer be focused on The Capitol at the expense of the system’s far-flung district campuses.

Status quo at LSUS isn’t an option where enrollment fails to grow.

Lawmakers mostly will be left to judge on the competing visions and track records of the players. But neither can they discount the uncertain financial future that continues to shrink state contributions to higher education. Realignment of campuses and partnerships will be necessary to maximize limited resources.

Lawmakers must not base a vote on turf protection. The state can’t afford loyalists to the various systems — LSU, Southern, the University of Louisiana — simply to vote for their team. Nor should they use this proposal as an opportunity to head off a merger trend that began with last year’s battle royale involving Southern University’s New Orleans campus and the University of New Orleans. Every such proposal should be met on its individual merits.

The Times Editorial Board met with Tech President Dan Reneau last week who laid out a laundry list of what-ifs that include not only the importation of Tech programs to LSUS but introducing Shreveport campus programs to Ruston. Program imports would range from a bachelor’s degree in environmental science to a masters in engineering and technology management.

As successful as Reneau’s team has been at building a nationally recognized engineering and research university in a comparatively small community, he says moving into north Louisiana’s most populus urban center could propel Tech into a “small flagship” status.

His vision encompasses not only the expected engineering fare, but a law school and college of performing arts. A partnership also provides stronger anchors for an Interstate 20 higher education corridor, particularly in scientific endeavors. Again, it’s a vision, not a given fact. But Tech has too much to gain with a large footprint in Shreveport-Bossier to short-shrift the local campus.

The possible merger deserves a fair hearing as does LSU’s alternate vision of bolstering Shreveport’s academic menu. Our community deserves and needs the best option available.

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