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Whether for sake of economics or politics, merger founders

If any lesson should emanate from the failed attempt arrange union between my employer Louisiana State University Shreveport and Louisiana Tech University, it’s that a merger on these terms will not fix whatever ails higher education delivery in the Shreveport-Bossier metropolitan area.

All along, advocates argued the primary reason for the combination was to accomplish this. They described the symptoms that purported to signal deficiency in this area: relatively low enrollment numbers, almost no growth, and apparent difficulty in supplying programs. But they really couldn’t, or would not, articulate the causes of this. Instead, by having LSUS subsumed into Tech, essentially they argued that in order to cure the unknown disease the patient had to be killed and then resurrected as a symbiont.

While the idea had a great many area supporters, none of whom ever had served as a tenured faculty member or administrator in higher education, in the political and business communities in the area, as well as interest groups who assert their missions encompass education delivery, the naïveté of the notion was stunning in that so many failed to grasp its fundamental shortcoming. They appeared ignorant of a central truism in academia (and government), that institutions as organizations first and foremost do not act with a larger environmental purpose in mind – that is, to maximize higher education delivery statewide – nor to serve peripheral, specific environments – to Tech, the Shreveport/Bossier metropolitan area.


Senate fails to provide even minimal civil liberties relief

Good things can take a lot of time to manifest, but this is getting ridiculous with the Louisiana Legislature’s continuing inaction, if not actual sabotage, of the ability of a significant proportion of its citizenry to exercise a simple civil liberty.

That liberty being the ability to travel around and patronize commercial establishments without going into respiratory distress. As medical advances improve quality of life for those with a disability that impairs breathing, from having asthma to suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to using mechanical ventilation, who now comprise a tenth of the population that as a whole will continue to increase in proportion as it ages, the discrimination that occurs by giving preference to those who choose to smoke in some avenues of commerce in Louisiana makes this violation all the more egregious.

Currently, 25 states ban any smoking in public establishments of any kind, with extensions emanating outside from them as well. Louisiana and some other states ban some indoor smoking and in Louisiana in a radius 25 feet from passageways for certain buildings such as hospitals and educational facilities. Smokers decry the restriction of their behavior and certain industries feel they might lose business if smoking were not allowed, but in the conflict of civil liberties that results – one group that wants to engage in a voluntary activity not essential to sustaining their lives as an aside to interacting commercially versus another that involuntarily suffers an ability to sustain life when the first group engages in that activity while interacting in the same commerce, thereby negating its members’ ability to interact in that kind of commerce – the preponderance of evidence shows the second group’s claim as more compelling, to not to have to suffer through that environment, meriting government action to ensure they may exercise that more vital liberty.


"One-time" money defined wrongly, invites wrong debate

As the state’s next fiscal year budget hurtles to resolution, the central debate among Louisiana policy-makers has become over the use of “one-time” money. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong debate using the wrong terminology.

To take a typical definition one might run across in the popular media, and one seemingly accepted by many politicians, these dollars are those “that likely will only materialize once.” The problem is, for much of what gets designated as this, it’s simply not accurate.

Some of what gets lumped into this category honestly can be called that. For example, one portion of money that never will come as recurring revenue is the sale or lease of the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, now shuttered for a few years. That $35 million indeed is a single shot,“one-time” (and, ironically or perhaps hypocritically, remains in the budget after self-proclaimed budget hawks squawked they had purged the budget of this kind of spending).


Roemer self-deception prepares him to suffer third strike

My first full-time teaching job out of graduate school (although technically still in it: I had just completed my exams and was working on my dissertation) was at the University of Southern Mississippi, where I had the fortune to run into some older students who recruited me for their intramural softball teams. One team played regular slow-pitch, where I pitched and played catcher (never mind I was six feet tall, 130 pounds, with glasses) and managed a high on-base percentage through walks (because I could see so well with the glasses). We made the quarterfinals before losing.

But the other team I was on went all the way to finals. This was the co-ed version, where sexes alternated between batters. Here, I was the pitcher, for a very simple reason: I could put the ball right over the plate almost all of the time, because in this league, you pitched to your own side at bat. The object was to toss as many fat pitches in there as possible. So I'd deliver them and our guys would mash them to the fences, even over them while our gals made contact and looped them over the infielders. The only game we lost was the championship where we got out-mashed and outhit by a bunch of greek guys and gals who these days probably all work for the people I graduated with from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

I suspect in his past former Gov. Buddy Roemer must have been an excellent pitcher on this kind of co-ed team, given the number of softballs right over the plate he has tossed during his pseudo-campaign for the presidency. Plan A in regard to that was to get the Republican nomination. When that no longer suited his psychological needs because of its impossibility, he went to Plan B: obtaining the nomination from a quasi-political party called Americans Elect, which was supposed to offer a platform for a candidate that met the group’s funders’ conception of centrism chosen by the masses fed up with the two major parties.


Best policy to reduce LA imprisonment: excise liberalism

This past week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune ran an interesting series on Louisiana corrections policy and its larger ramifications to society. But perhaps the most revealing information from it, pointing to an issue which scarcely gets addressed, came in the form of portraits of the raw product that fuels imprisonment – the miscreants themselves, how they got there, and how policy affects their behavior prior to their infusing into the system.

The series focuses on the state’s stern criminal justice policies that make it apparently the lockup capital of the world as its rate is highest in the U.S., which has the highest rate in the world, and policy to change it that would produce fewer people incarcerated yet still punished and perhaps directed in ways to reduce repeat offenses. It makes the case that the high rate of imprisonment partly is a function of current policies (although some are about to be relaxed it appears) that if changed would alleviate the condition somewhat with benefits of the change to society exceeding the costs.

However, it does not stop to ponder the nexus between rates of crime and rates of imprisonment. One might think a high imprisonment rate must have a high rate of crime to supply the raw material. Think again: next to the U.S., Singapore has the highest lockup rate in the world, but one of the lowest crime rates, showing an intervening variable exists in the theory. And that is culture: one that accentuates the future-oriented values of work and thrift to keep poverty rates low rather than the present-oriented values of immediate gratification and conspicuous consumption, that features more helpful than confrontational attitudes between police and the citizenry, and promotes the idea that people need to work within societal systems with each other to try to achieve individual goals that have collective benefits. And while the argument could be made that the authoritarian history of its government encouraged this (as it does in culturally-similar Hong Kong today), it’s been two decades since Singapore transformed into a genuine democracy.