TO: The University Community
For some weeks now, I have wanted to write the university family to address the several issues and rumors surrounding the work of the Louisiana Postsecondary Education Review Commission (sometimes referred to as the Tucker Commission). Unfortunately, addressing this matter is very much like “picking up a porcupine.” One tries for the soft underbelly but gets mostly the sharp spines (sorry for the Montana metaphor).
The Postsecondary Education Review Commission was created by Act 309 of the 2009 Louisiana Legislature to study the governance, facilities, and funding operations at the state’s public two and four-year institutions and to provide a written report of findings and recommendations. This group is staffed by the Louisiana Board of Regents.
The organizational meeting of this group occurred on August 10th, with the latest meetings occurring on September 28th and 29th. On the 28th, Ben Nevers, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, was elected chair of the Commission. Attached to this correspondence, you will find a listing of the total commission membership (Attachment 1) as well as the minutes of the organizational meeting on August 10th (Attachment 2).
Community members wishing to follow the deliberations of the Commission may do so by going to http://laperc.ioniclogic.com/. At that link, you will find a broad array of documents pertaining to the work of the Commission. You will also find a link to live coverage of this Commission when it is in session.
While the Commission is just now getting about its work, the rumor mill has been active for the past several months. Locally, the chatter, rumors, and gossip have focused on a comment by a regional legislator saying something to the effect that Nicholls was in the bull’s eye.
While I know no more than anyone else about the political intent behind the Commission or the direction of its deliberations, I can tell you that such comments, while intended to rally the community to support the university, are simply not accurate. However, each of us knows that such comments can easily affect student applications and enrollment.
So how do we respond to the chatter within the broader community and the occasional inflammatory print media headline? Clearly, that response has to be cautious and deliberate, as we do not want to intensify the debate or sound particularly defensive.
The approach taken over the past weeks has been to encourage university friends at all levels to counter such comments with observations about the many program successes at Nicholls. This effort has also involved media releases addressing positive messages such as that recently about eighty-plus percent of regional nurses coming from Nicholls.
The goal has been to inform rather than to be defensive. Each of us knows the strength of the university in terms of its faculty, academic programs, accreditations, and the facilities and service enhancements that make Nicholls so strong. We also know that the average ACT of first-time freshmen is now at 21.5, reflecting a significantly stronger student body which in turn has led to higher retention rates.
As I indicated earlier, no one knows what lies ahead as a result of the on-going deliberations and further recommendations of the Commission. Even more importantly, no one knows the political agenda that will play out in balancing higher education priorities with the greatly diminished available financial resources available to the State of Louisiana. During the interim, I want to encourage all members of the university community as well as its many friends to keep a positive outlook and to speak out addressing just how successful Nicholls State University has been in its first 61 years of service to south central Louisiana.
As needed in the future, we will aggressively defend this fine young university; but at the same time, we will continue to move Nicholls forward as a maturing comprehensive university. Nicholls has responded to the evolving needs of its service region. We will continue to do so in the future.