Don’t Say That

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Baton Rouge the last couple of weeks. Once I took part in a protest on my own time and semi-posed as a student to testify before the Appropriations Committee. (I am a student, or was, depending on what you consider someone who is a doctoral candidate on hold.) The second time I attended a rally and took lots of pictures of students holding signs like “Don’t Touch My Education, Don’t Touch My Future” and had a Twitter-fest.

Today, I did more listening than demonstrating.

But I’m not known for keeping my mouth shut.

When I’m not saying uncomfortable things, I ask uncomfortable questions.

So today, I asked Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Rallo why he thinks he can be guardedly optimistic that we will find a budget solution that will spare higher ed from 82% cuts in state spending, when it looks like there are no viable solutions.

His response? Legislators are now talking about things they haven’t discussed in years, including the inventory tax. If the budget goes forward at the end of June with no changes, he said that one half to three fourths of our institutions won’t be able to make payroll. And that the leges understand the impact that would have in their communities and don’t want that to happen.

Commissioner Rallo, with all due respect, the legislators that you have met with may have a conscience and aren’t totally brainwashed by the sick Anti-Tax, The Only Government is God’s Government cult that Jindal is part of. There are a bunch of these guys floating around in Texas–in fact, a guy by the name of Gary North who is behind much of the Christianized version of this is based there–but Jindal is really on the verge of bringing about the End Game of what “secular” government would be like if it pretty much didn’t exist and he is going to see it through unless he is stopped. Legislators waking from their deep slumber and realizing that oh, higher ed is kind of important is not going to do it. Because what rational folks see as irrevocable destruction Jindal the Cultist sees as the ultimate victory.

Higher ed may be playing chicken with Jindal. But Jindal isn’t going to swerve. He’s been heading for us dead on with a freight train. One that he jumped out of long ago. He’ll come back long enough to veto anything that looks like a tax increase. We are going splat and it’s almost too late for the leges to do anything about it.

As we also know over the last couple of days, LSU did, or, oops, maybe really didn’t begin preparing the paperwork for exigency. And because they may or may not be preparing for exigency, and F. King Alexander, who has as big a mouth as I do but a much bigger platform to speak from, said something about it, national investors pulled out of a bond deal that was to fund new student housing and a student health center.

And of course, Alexander will get blamed for it. Because it is never, ever, EVER Bobby Jindal’s fault. GRAD Act and every other policy that Jindal has enacted is structured to fail and make everything look like it’s OUR FAULT.

Last night at the State of (Dis)Repair forum on the budget and higher education, Bob Mann said that he talked to the person in charge of enrollment management at LSU, who had had a very rough day fielding questions from parents and students.

Oh, my goodness, I can imagine. One day that I’m glad I’m where I am and not LSU.

LSU is absolutely going to take an enrollment hit because of this.

But [insert a stream of bad words here], that’s not necessarily a bad thing because THIS IS THE TRUTH! Students and parents have EVERY RIGHT to be concerned! Maybe it’s because I have a big mouth, but if that were me, I’d say, yes, and you need to bang on the door of your legislator NOW! (I have said that before with regards to GRAD Act and the admissions criteria.) Pretending that it’s not there so that you can get your class in is not going to do ANYTHING. It means that we continue keeping our eyes closed and fingers in our ears and singing, LALALALA until we dance off a cliff, DEAD. At a certain point we have to stop the game and say, ENOUGH. We can’t recruit our way out of this. We were never meant to. We were meant to, well, end up where we are now.

And I did hear once today (not directed at me specifically, but at a conversation I was part of regarding my worst fears about this fall), “don’t say that.”

But both the person I was speaking to at the time and I both knew. We have to say it. If we don’t now, it’s too late. So we kept talking.

I am facing the deepest ethical dilemma I’ve had in my career since I started doing this.

I am recruiting students to a school that may not have classes this fall, or at least not enough classes to be able to say that we are anywhere close to operational.

As is every single other person in this state at every other public institution who does what I do with maybe a mere handful of exceptions. We may not be admitting it (or really can’t believe the unbelievable, which I am sorry, IS HAPPENING), but behind our smiles and special events welcoming new students to our campuses, is the question… will there be a school?

Or, like Commissioner Rallo also said today, it would be tragic if the state fully funds TOPS but there isn’t any place for students to use their TOPS. And this isn’t a remote possibility. This is becoming more and more likely every day.

I don’t want to hear, “It’s going to be all right” like I did several times today. Because it is NOT all right, and the longer we say, “It’s going to be all right” the worse our chances actually get. That’s almost like saying, “Don’t say that.”

Well, just like LSU may or may not be drafting exigency paperwork, I may or may not be drafting my resignation letter. And when I do, I promise you, it will be an open letter that I will send to every blasted news outlet in this state and I will address it to Governor Bobby Jindal.

The rest of us may go out with a whimper but not me, sorry.

I care too much about this state and the students I serve every day.

Because I really don’t work for my campus head or even for the Governor of Louisiana.

I work for the people.

I am a public employee.

I work for YOU.

And I will stand up for you and with you.

Don’t say that?

I’m saying it.

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