Monday, March 06, 2006

Louisiana State, U Need Adversity

As long as I live, I'll never understand why people who are lucky enough to have top-shelf opportunities and schooling feel the need to bully those who make do with less. This is a common issue between those who attend one of Louisiana's two universities, LSU and Not LSU.

Nick has alerted me to The Highland Road Blog, which has published a post that pissed both of us off. First, a bit of background: in Louisiana, state schools are governed by two bodies: the LSU System, which services LSU and its three satellite campuses, and the UL System, which oversees every other state university. The LSU Board and the UL Board share members, most of whom are beholden to LSU. If that seems a tad unbalanced, you're catching on.

The current buzz is that Sally Clausen, the current head of the UL System, is being tapped to replace outgoing LSU System head Bill Jenkins. Highland Road's author--an LSU student named Ryan--balks at the idea [emphases mine]:

I don't see the strength in Clausen. She is the President of schools like Grambling State, ULL, ULM, UNO, SLU... in other words shitty schools. At my high school and around my hometown SLU was called Slow Learners University and the people who went there from my high school were often given a "Wow, I'm sorry" type response (not spoken, more of a thought) when they told other students they were going to SLU. The same goes for ULL, if you were going to ULL you knew they didn't have the qualifications to go to LSU (in the majority of the cases).

The fact is that the people who go to the schools in UL system are the ones who couldn't get into LSU or failed out of LSU.

You know what I like about this guy? His humility.

Prompted by this eloquent post, Nick and I have both tendered our responses. But since Ryan's blog is comment-moderated (of course it is), neither one of us is sure if our replies will ever see the light of screen. So I'm cross-posting my reply here:

If you think Gov. Blanco is spending too much time propping up UL Lafayette, then perhaps you should read this:

"Blanco came out for LSU in Baton Rouge on Feb. 4, 2004. 'LSU is currently regarded as the flagship university in Louisiana,' Blanco said, as quoted in the LSU Reveille. 'It should be encouraged to compete…but what we want to see is LSU being among the highest-ranking academic universities in the nation.'

Naturally, our camp raised the question about what the flagship status will mean for universities such as UL Lafayette. 'All the minor universities are able to compete nationally,' Blanco said."

If anything, she's playing both sides. Neither UL nor LSU is satisfied with her.

I attended UL Lafayette from 1998 to 2005, earning two degrees in the process. I certainly could have entered LSU, and in fact many people were surprised when I didn't. But I went to UL instead for several reasons: 1) I was offered sufficient scholarships to work and attend the school; 2) my major, mass communications, has a solid program comparable in many ways to LSU's solid program; 3) as someone who spent much of my childhood shuttling between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, I preferred to attend school in Lafayette, a city I feel offers far more cultural opportunities. As a member of the UL track team, I traveled to LSU on countless occasions. As impressed as I was with the campus and its facilities, I still felt like I made the right decision.

LSU is a school with a lot going for it, and I don't begrudge that. And I certainly am not the biggest fan of the UL system or the state in general. But to say that all of Louisiana's state schools are populated by LSU rejects is arrogance of the worst kind! Just like any other school, LSU has its strengths and weaknesses. One of those weaknesses, unfortunately, is hubris.

This hubris is evidenced every time someone from LSU derisively refers to my school by "ULL, UL or whatever your school is called these days." It's the LSU board's influence that kept our name from being the University of Louisiana in the first place. They didn't want our name to reflect badly upon the outdated "flagship" university status that LSU has. Our school is currently lobbying to officially change its name to UL, and much of the local press has alredy dropped the "Lafayette." And lest you think we can't drop the regional designation, officially or otherwise, I'd suggest you look up the official name of your own university, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. LSU has set the precedent in that regard.

Mind you, I have nothing against LSU; many of my friends and family have gone and do go there. The only issues I have lie with those within that institution who feel that they must dismiss other schools out of some feeling of superiority.

Not that you guys at LSU have anything to worry about. You do and will continue to receive as much funding as every other state school combined. With as much funding and national recognition as the school gets, it should be at least as good as it is.

If you wish to show your educational prowess, then do it academically. In the end, that'll take you much further in life than cutting down those around you.


Nick said...

My comment obviously hasn't been approved, so I'll post my response on my site when I get a chance. I wish I had copied and saved it, but I think I can remember the jist of what I posted, plus now I'll just add to it. I don't know if you noticed, but he's a mass communications major. What the hell is it with you guys!? He's also a freshman, so basically an ignorant fool.

Cajun Tiger said...

How's this for LSU hubris...GEAUX TIGERS!!! =)

Good post Ian. Since I've left LA I haven't kept up much with the whole LA university systems, but they were screwed up then and still are.

Michael said...

It may smooth your ruffled feathers to learn that 'twas ever thus. Every state has a "flagship" institution (or one that claims that mantle), and a whole bunch of others who don't measure up (or don't think they measure up) to that flagship institution.

I work for such a "wannabe" school. For as long as I can remember (and my mom worked at this university for 20 years before I did, so I have a pretty good institutional memory), people here have felt like the orphaned stepchildren of the University of Illinois. And UIUC gets about half of every dollar in state higher education funding--with the remaining half spread across the other 10 state institutions.

To this day, we have faculty members for whom the existence of the University of Illinois constitutes a personal affront. To hear them talk, we have no chance of ever accomplishing anything worthwhile, none of our students will ever accomplish anything of note, yada, yada, yada.

It's true: we have a lot of middle-of-the-road students who couldn't get in to other, more prestigious schools. But we also have a lot of extremely bright students who are working in world-class programs and doing things they'd never get to do at UIUC. A bunch of students in the geology program got to spend part of the summer in Antarctica, for example, doing research with their professor. We run one of three neutron therapy facilities for cancer in the United States, and one of the faculty members in my department is among the top researchers in that area. One of our alumni founded Daily Kos, which has gotten a little bit of notice in political circles. Quite a number of our alumni have gone on to do great things in the world of theatre (voicing Homer Simpson, for example). We haven't yet produced a Nobel laureate, but I think we will one day--and since I've been here, I've met two, both of whom collaborate with one of the faculty members I work with.

The moral of the story: Be who you are. Embrace your strengths, whatever they may be, and work to eliminate weaknesses. Forget about the Joneses. Or LSU.

Nick said...

I just posted my statement. Now I need to get back to work.

Ryan said...

Thanks for responding to my post. I knew I'd catch some flak- but thats fine. Some of what I said was a little heated and I might have to do the old foot-in-mouth treatment later. But whatever. Anyway like I said- thanks for responding. I'll have you know I think the people who run LSU are for the most part a bunch of idiots though. Our promotional campaigns are laughable and the flagship agenda is stupid in almost every way. At sometime in the next few days I will post some more on the issue.

JTekell said...

I went to ULL by choice. I could easily have gone to a school BETTER than LSU but I chose to stay close to home to minimize my undergraduate debt knowing I was going to rack up plenty in grad school (which I have). Among the biggest reasons I chose not to go to LSU was that attitude (thought ULL is starting to piss me off with their similar attitude towards schools like McNeese, Nichols, etc.). To this day, I pull for LSU failure at every opportunity in the hopes that somehow this will humble the mighty tiger. I realize the mighty tiger fan will never be humbled but I can dream.

ashley said...

I'm still going to call it "Universite des Acadiens", because I can.

And they have an exceptional grad CS department, probably one of the top 10 in the country. However, I picked Tulane for my PhD, because I asked my department chair and others: "You have 2 identical resumes on your desk: one from Lafayette, one from Tulane. Who would you hire?"

Unanimously, they all said Tulane. Oh well.

Ian McGibboney said...

Wow...if I could get a comment thread like this every day, I'd be a happy guy. This is an issue I've wanted to discuss for a long time, and there's actually a lot of intellectual balance here that's usually absent from this discussion. Nice going.

After reading Ashley's comment, I think UL should rename itself something along the lines of Tulane or Rutgers. Those sound like Ivy-League names, which in a way has helped the prestige of those schools. Some suggestions off the top of my head: Rutlane; Datsun (brand recognition); Oxgers; Yaaaalllieeeee!

Not that the name should matter at all; a lot of famous people come from Northwestern University, which is the most generic name for a school this side of Loyola.

Ryan said...

Also it appears MY comment hasn't been approved. But I was going to say that nobody ever tried to post a comment on my blog- so I certain;y haven't been "moderating" comments or not approving them. Oh- and I added some more on the issue. I did like your response Ian- it was well thought out, and for the most part it was right.

Ian McGibboney said...

Ryan, you should crack into your settings and change the comment feature. I think moderation is the default these days. But I don't know a lot of bloggers who use it; even MC Hammer freely allows comments.

Thanks for the props, Ryan. I'll add you to my blogroll.

Anonymous said...

actaully, i think the name of LSU is not just LSU at BR, but includes some A&M designation.

Ian McGibboney said...

Yeah, that's true. I tried to find the real name on the LSU website, but couldn't. Go figure!

But Ryan has cleared that up. LSU-BR A&M.

Ryan said...

Yeah I changed it on the settings. Apparently I had it set for moderation by default but never gave them an address to send me the confirmation messages. Whatever.

Also LSU was originally called Louisiana Seminary and was located in Pineville. The first president of Louisiana Seminary was William Tecumseh Sherman. Go figure.

And by the way how is Mass Comm at ULL? Its one of the toughest programs at LSU. For the Media Writing course you have to make an 85 I think or you have to take it all over again. So its supposed to be difficult.

Ian McGibboney said...

The Mass Comm program at UL is staffed by a lot of prominent people in their respective fields. I complained and groaned a lot in my four years in the program, which meant they were doing something right. Standards were pretty high in the journalism program and I did what I could to uphold them. One class, Media Law, I actually had to retake three times because I couldn't get past a D. (I made a B the third time). Considering that I only once came close to a D in any other class, that's saying something. I don't regret my choice of that school for a second.

Nick said...


Your favorite Vermilion columnist (not me this time)popped up on the Daily Advertiser opinion page, in case you wanted some new material.

Ian McGibboney said...


"Like small children, the black community's 'leaders' cannot take no for an answer."

Total Hinson.

saintseeser said...

It doesn't say much to have to put down one place to make another school look good. For many students, college is only as good as the effort you put into it - for yourself.

BTW - my husband graduated from SLU in C.S., and has a great job. I graduated from TU, and now teach at one of those schools often looked down upon in the AL state system. But, we serve some of the hardest working students in the state. There are many reasons why someone may choose a regional school.

yournamehere said...

I went to the University of Louisville, which at the time was "open admissions"(you had a diploma from a Kentucky High School and a means to play tuition, you got in). It was also primarily a commuter school. Because of this, I'm sure some people looked down on the university, but a lot of people got to go to college who otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity. I think this is an important service to society, but I didn't go to an Ivy League school, so what the hell do I know?

Ian McGibboney said...

When I started college, UL was the University of Southwestern Louisiana and it had open admissions. Add to that the then-new TOPS program, which paid for pretty much anyone who graduted HS with decent grades (and which I did not qualify for on a technicality), and you had a huge student body.

A year later, the school changed its name and began selective admissions, which meant you now had to have a 17 on your ACT or something. I don't know how it's changed things much, though the student body has dwindled slightly.

Having never been one to mash someone's ability into a simple test score, I like that more students have an opportunity to better themselves. If not in universities, then through other venues of higher learning.

Nick said...

I may be wrong, you may know about this for sure Icon, but I think the ACT requirements for ULL is on a sliding scale. For Example, if you only scored a 15, but have a 3.0 GPA or so, then you can still get in. Regardless, you can go to the community college for a year or two and easily qualify to get into ULL.

yournamehere said...

For the record, the University of Louisville has a medical school that's a leader in stem cell research and hand micro-surgery. I assume it isn't open admissions.

Nick said...


One day after Hinson shows up in the Advertiser, I appear with my opinions.

bayoustjohndavid said...

I'll start from the premise that the guy's not a total idiot, merely trying to be provocative. I'll assume that he purposely ignores the fact that a lot of students who can't afford to go out of state don't want to fool with the Greek system at LSU. Still, even if his basic premise were correct, it would be irrelevant. It's an administrative position and it's not like we're talking about the difference running Podunk Community College and Harvard.

Main thing is, Clausen's last name had me concerned about politics. But something about the opposition made me think it might be a politically manufactured issue. Thanks to the Highland Rd. guy, I can see that that's at least partly the case--with the politics being both partisan and geographic. He performed a public service.