Friday, November 30, 2012

Les Miles and the Zombie Apocalypse

What's left of Louisiana Higher Education

By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South
November 30, 2012

I was stunned. The news that Les Miles was offered a coaching job at the University of Arkansas hit me in the gut.

Good thing LSU could give the coach a raise and extend his contract.

The Hogs brought home the bacon with a $27.5 million offer, but the Tigers must have really roared in the big bucks.

I was actually daydreaming that Coach Miles was headed to Arkansas.

Leaving the LSU Tigers would be the canary in the coal mine, and it would have shown just how far the mighty had fallen.

Had Les Miles departed Baton Rouge, it would have been the zombie apocalypse all across Louisiana.

Finally, the lapdog legislators and business elite would take note.

Though the Tigers appear safe for now, please get to know some facts about Louisiana higher education under Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Since 2008, $450 million have been axed from college budgets, there have been no raises for most faculty members in five years, several universities are in death spirals, and the LSU Board of Supervisors is nothing more than an adjunct of the Governor’s Office.

The out-migration of faculty members and administrators is staggering and a national embarrassment that grows worse by the day.

Several university administrations are on the American Association of University Professors censure list and more are under investigation.

Faculty and staff members are demoralized and fearful.

Students are paying a lot more for an inferior education.

The medical schools aren’t far from losing accreditation due to the ongoing charity-hospital fiasco, and LSU merger shenanigans have the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools questioning potential conflicts ofinterest in Baton Rouge.

Tiger fans, without SACS accreditation, LSU is nothing more than a diploma mill with some pretty oak trees, and the NCAA won’t let an unaccredited school field a football team.

I could go on and on, but no one seems to care.

Some people have questioned LSU’s priorities giving Coach Miles an obscene pay raise when we’re closing hospitals and placing the entire higher-education structure at risk.

Indeed, we should question the priorities of the state as a whole for letting the governor sink our ship while he pines away for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Louisiana higher education and even football will be better off after Jindal’s departure. Les Miles would be sorely missed. Our current governor, not so much.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at
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***This message speaks only for the writer, a citizen, not for any present or past employer.***

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Bobby Jindal Years

How is it working for you?
By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South Column
November 4, 2012 – 700 words
Hammond, La., Sunday Star, 4A-5A

I was born in Louisiana. From my perspective, our state is far more interested in Tiger football and oyster po-boys than building an educational environment that makes a university football team possible or protecting a healthy ecosystem that creates good seafood.

This disconnect from the sources of our joy is our greatest downfall as a state. We like the benefits of living in this unique cultural swamp but fail to nurture its roots. We’re like folks that salt their own well and wonder why the water has gone bad.

For about six months, I have written a weekly column for my hometown newspaper. I like to joke with friends that my pay has tripled during this time due to such an overwhelming response: Three times zero is zero. But I didn’t write for money or the lack thereof.

Most of my columns have been dedicated to Louisiana issues, threats to the quality of life as I see it.

This is a good time to take a break from my quixotic task of tilting at windmills.

If Barack Obama is reelected President, Governor Bobby Jindal will go into overdrive for his presidential election bid in 2016. Louisiana will be little more than an afterthought to Jindal.

On the other hand, if Mitt Romney wins, Jindal will likely leave us for a cabinet post, and many believe it will be as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education or the Department of Health and Human Services.

If Jindal stays in Louisiana, we’re doomed. If he leaves, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne will have his hands full.

In either case, my contribution to fixing what is broken is limited. The Pelican State needs an exorcist, not a columnist.

Well, I know people will say we already have an exorcist in Bobby Jindal. He wrote about his reminisces of collegiate exorcism while at Brown University, but I’m afraid we need a really talented exorcist now.

Despite what some may have perceived as shortcomings, I have been earnest to a fault in my columns. That’s always been my modus operandi: Swing for the bleachers and hope the bat doesn’t slip out of my hands and hit a fan in the fifth row on the right field side.

But I offer a parting shot in this final weekly op-ed. Every Louisianan should realize that elections have consequences, and my question for those who voted for Bobby Jindal is simple. How is it working for you?

Public educators, what about that new evaluation system? How is it working for you?

School officials, what about that MFP funding? How is it working for you?

Higher education administrators, what’s it like watching your institutions destroyed a little at a time? How is it working for you?

University professors, what about the loss of academic freedom and the culture of fear on your campuses? How is it working for you?

College students, what do you think about your tuition and fees doubling since 2008? How is it working for you?

Doctors and independent pharmacists, what about the Jindal medical plan? How is it working for you?

St. Tammany Parish residents, the brightest red of red parishes in a fire engine red state, what do you think about the destruction of Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville? How is it working for you?

Legislators, what about the lack of respect and input during decision-making about cuts in your districts? How is it working for you?

Former Governor Mike Foster, what is it like knowing you created a dictator in Bobby Jindal? How is it working for you?

Readers of this newspaper, those who voted for Jindal and those who failed to vote at all, how is it working for you?

During the Ronald Reagan years, back in the 1980s, those horrible days of the Louisiana Oil Bust, I recall seeing a bumper sticker: “Last one out, turn off the lights.” People were leaving Louisiana in droves and for good reason.

A message summarizing the Bobby Jindal years might be “How is it working for you?”

Perhaps it’s time to print a few bumper stickers. Hope I see you at the polls on Tuesday.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at

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***This message speaks only for the writer, a citizen, not for any present or past employer.***

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Guest Commentary by Davy Brooks

The Real Slim Shady

In 1956 a new game show was launched called To Tell the Truth. The format had a moderator welcome three guests who were all introduced with the same identity. A panel of career television personalities would question the guests and try to deduce which one was telling the truth and which two were impostors. Finally, at the end of the questioning, the moderator looked at the guests and said, “Will the real ________________ please stand up?”

This became a trendy catch phrase that ranked with “Where’s the beef?” and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Marshall Matters, aka Eminem, had some fun with the phrase in 2002 and again in 2005 in his anthem “The Real Slim Shady.” The character was the rapper’s alter ego who disses the world of manufactured pop songs. He says that all the fashion trends are due to his success and everyone is copying him. He declares, “I’m the Slim Shady, I’m the real Slim Shady, all the other Slim Shadys are just imitators.” Then he borrows from the old catch phrase: “Would the real Slim Shady please stand up. Please stand up.”

I was reminded of these things upon watching the third presidential debate between President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney. That night it seemed that the soul of the previously hawkish Romney had morphed into a Peter, Paul, and Mary-styled peacenik. I could only conclude that the essence and aura of the late great Vietnam War critic and 1972 presidential candidate, George McGovern, who had shed his earthly coil only the day before, had miraculously made its way into the inner being of the previously swaggering, bomb throwing, rebel arming Mitt Romney. What else in the world could account for such a transformation in such a short time?

Retired General Colin Powell, in his recent endorsement of President Obama, said that Romney had agreed with the President “on every issue with some nuances,” but “this is a quite different set of foreign policy views from those he held earlier in the campaign.” “He is a moving target,” said the good general.

Powell’s observation is quite accurate. If you follow Mitt’s career, you will see more identities than at a Peter Sellers film festival.

In 1994, Romney ran for the senate against Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. He said then that he would be a better candidate for gay rights than Kennedy. But the candidate for the 2000s opposed “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell,” gay marriage, and gay adoption. Another time Romney told a very personal story of a family member who had to endure an illegal abortion, and he vowed form that day forward that he would always support a woman’s right to choose. Today’s Mitt says he would like to see Roe vs. Wade overturned, and he would appoint the judges to do it.

Moderate Mitt was for forms of gun control before Severely Conservative Mitt was against them. The Boca Raton Mitt behind closed doors said a two state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not, could not, should not work. Don’t even try. However, Open Mic Night in Boca Raton had the Republican hopeful favoring a two state solution. Then of course there was the tax cut that everyone was going to receive, then in the debates it turned out it wasn’t for the wealthy—well, not really. Then when it came to pre-existing conditions, there was an internal struggle in the Romney camp that concluded something like yes, no, maybe so, certainly not.

What is the casual voter to do? Look those Mitt Romneys in their collective eyes and say, “Will the real Mitt Shady please stand up? Please stand up!”

Davy Brooks, teacher
Hammond, Louisiana