Thursday, September 16, 2010

Piyush 'em back! Piyush 'em back! Waaaaay back!

If what René Descartes said is true -- "I think, therefore I am" -- does it follow that morons are an endangered species?

If so, say goodbye to Louisiana which, during tough times, will give away the fiscal farm to land an iron- and steel mill as it systematically starves higher education and research.

The latest blow to what passes for intellectual capital in the state came Wednesday, when we found out what it would mean to LSU if it cut $12 million less than what state budget officials asked it to plan for. What it would mean is carnage.

Job carnage.

Academic carnage.

Student carnage.

Enrollment carnage.

And, ultimately, economic carnage for Baton Rouge and the rest of Louisiana.

YOU KNOW what, though? Any state that sows the kind of carnage on its flagship university described in this Advocate story today deserves every bad thing it will reap:

LSU would axe nearly 700 employees and lose close to 8,000 students if forced to cut about $62 million from the flagship campus’ coffers next year, according to an LSU estimate.

The hypothetical budget cuts released late Wednesday are part of a state-mandated, budget-cutting exercise of higher education and other state agencies in preparation for the loss of federal stimulus dollars and some state revenues next summer.

The $62 million represents about 32 percent — reduced from 38 percent by the state — of state general funds and stimulus dollars going to the flagship LSU campus.

Higher education statewide would lose nearly $437 million.

“It would be a catastrophic impact,” LSU Chancellor Michael Martin said. “The (academic) core would be seriously harmed.”

In July, LSU released a budget scenario featuring $45.8 million in cuts and the loss of more than 260 jobs.

The additional $17 million cut in the latest scenario almost all comes directly out of classrooms and the faculty ranks, increasing the amount of lost jobs all the way up to 690, nearly 630 of which are currently filled.

About half of the hypothetical layoffs would be faculty.

AT THIS RATE, we need to start calling Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal by his given name, Piyush. As in "Piyush the state right off a cliff, gubna!" LSU's student paper, The Daily Reveille continues the tale of a state's intellectual deleveraging:

If the scenario becomes reality, then 154,299 undergraduate credit hours and 31,506 graduate credit hours will be eliminated.

Chancellor Michael Martin said he doesn’t know the likelihood of the cuts materializing because the projections were created at request of the state.

“If it actually came to pass, it would be catastrophic,” Martin said. “The very conversations we’re having will do some harm because the conversation causes people to look for other jobs elsewhere.”

Among Wednesday’s predictions, the University did not specify what faculty and departments would suffer, but it did announce general material effects.

“Roughly 50 degrees will be lost, impacting approximately 8,000 students, almost one-third of degree programs,” according to reduction descriptions prepared by the Budget Crisis Committee. “Diversity in career opportunities will be severely limited; campus buildings will be closed.”

Martin said residence halls, dining halls, classrooms and labs would be closed because fewer faculty and students require fewer facilities. Martin did not mention any specific buildings.

The Level Three description also indicated revenue from grants, contracts and tuition will suffer from the cuts, and a reduction in the student population will have a “dramatic impact on the viability of auxiliary units such as athletics, residence halls and the Student Union.”

Martin said the budget cuts will have a cyclical effect, and the University hasn’t even looked into the future effects of losing so many faculty and students.

“How many hamburgers wouldn’t be sold, how many gas stations wouldn’t sell?” Martin asked. “Just start thinking about the multiplier effect of that number of jobs lost and the spending in the community. This will reverberate not just in this campus, but across the community and the state.”

Martin said the effects among degree programs will be severe. While some students will simply change their majors if their degrees are cut, many students will transfer or not come to the University, Martin said.

“No matter how you cut this, you’re going to be forcing upon the students an education of lesser value,” Martin said. “A university has to have a certain breadth, hence the term university and not ‘monoversity.’ It will not only be a much narrower institution, it will be a much more mediocre one.”

"MUCH more mediocre?" Why, that sounds right up Louisiana's alley!

Because if it follows that stupid is as stupid does, then the Gret Stet will keep Piyushing until it's the most mediocre of 'em all. And when you're good at bad, that ain't good.

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