By Dayne Sherman
Only the Students Will Lead Us
Dear Louisiana College Student:
I’m going to take a good guess that you know Louisiana is facing a $1.6-$2 billion budget hole starting July 1. I’m also thinking you know this crisis may kill your community college or university.
It is no exaggeration to suggest Gov. Bobby Jindal and most legislators have decided you are not important, nor is your school. Who do you think created the colossal mess we are currently in? Who do you think allowed for the exponential rise in taxes (also known as tuition) on students?
A meeting was held at LSU on March 18 featuring several university leaders. LSU Professor Bob Mann covered the event. Here are a few choice quotes:
- “We may not be opening in August,” said F. King Alexander, LSU’s Chancellor-President.
- “There will be institutions that lose accreditation….” Some universities will be in a “death spiral,” said Sandra Woodley, University of Louisiana System President.
How does that sound? Does that give you a sense of hope?
Clearly, your undivided attention is sorely needed. Why? Because there may not be more than two dozen activists among Louisiana faculty statewide. That’s it. No more than 24, and these lonely professors have been beating the drum for 7 years.
It hasn’t worked.
Over and over I have watched the professorate cower. The average tenured professor in Louisiana is more fearful of Bobby Jindal than a fat possum is scared of a big bad bulldog.
So, don’t expect help from your teachers. You won’t get any.
It’s up to students to fix the mess we’re in. But please don’t tell me you don’t care. And please don’t say “I’m graduating this semester” or “I’ve got TOPS” or “I don’t have time.”
You’ll rise to the challenge or have no alma mater.
Not unlike the majority of the professorate who has been silent, the scaredy-cat university administrators have found solace in their high salaries and have remained mum. Furthermore, the moral jellyfish legislators have been afraid to buck Gov. Jindal’s policies over the last 7 years. I’m thinking you, the students, have the guts to save Louisiana higher education.
It won’t be easy. However, I can offer five steps to make a difference, ways to fight for your education:
- First, register to vote and make sure every eligible student on your campus is registered to vote.
- Second, spend a long weekend reading Gene Sharp’s short book titled From Dictatorship to Democracy. It’s a free download and provides 198 historically proven ways to nonviolently protest. A mere rally at the State Capitol won’t do it. Jindal doesn’t hang out there much these days, and half the time protest rallies just embolden the knuckleheads in the Louisiana House and Senate. Study the 198 actions. Use a selection of them. The more the merrier.
- Third, start a group. Get together. Don’t fight alone. You need cobelligerents and friends.
- Fourth, don’t waste one second listening to your professors unless they were a part of the 24 men and women kicking against the buffoons for years. If your college administrators or professors get in the way, find another school for the fall—outside of Louisiana. Tell them to jump in the nearest lake. If you don’t act, you may not have a college to graduate from. Or, your degree will be weakened to the point of worthlessness.
- Fifth, hand your legislator a “Higher Ed Report Card” with a big “F” on it per Dr. Woodley (her idea, not mine). Oh, and send a picture of the “F” with the legislator’s name on it to everyone you know: Email, Facebook, Twitter, text, and Instagram. I promise one thing: your Senator and House member won’t forget the grade.
My generation and profession failed to protect colleges and universities through cowardice, apathy, and sometimes outright complicity. Jindal’s attack on your school could have been stopped several years ago, but nothing was done.
If you don’t carry the torch between now and June 11, the last day of the legislative session, no one else will save your school. I, for one, believe you can do it.
Photo credit: “Flag of Louisiana” by User:…. – From the xrmap flag collection 2.7.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_Louisiana.svg#/media/File:Flag_of_Louisiana.svg
Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker
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