Friday, August 16, 2013

Guest Column by Dr. James D. Kirylo

We Have a Leadership Crisis in Baton Rouge

By Dr. James D. Kirylo
August 16, 2013
Guest Column - 700 words

This speech in no way reflects the views of Southeastern Louisiana University or its management.

On behalf of the faculty senate, a grand welcome to the 2013 Convocation!  Also, as a great way to commence this new academic year, I hope you will all join us at the annual Alumni picnic located in the Twelve Oaks on Friendship Circle following this convocation. 

It is an honor and privilege to be standing before all of you this morning.    When I mentioned to my wife what my role would be at this event, and that I would be speaking, she squirmed a little and said “Oh, oh.”  Perhaps some of you might be saying the same thing to yourselves.  Anyone who knows me knows that I attempt to live my life to be as honest, authentic, and sensitive as possible, making every effort to speak truth to power, truth to justice.

And the truth is, Dr. Crain is making every good effort to lead this university through waters that are hurricane rough, paddling with only one oar—not two—in a continuous sea of darkness, somehow fending off wave after wave with seemingly no forecast of calm.  Clearly, the ride has been rough.  As Hammond City Councilperson, Mike Williams, recently stated, “I know Dr. Crain and I know that this pains him.” 

Certainly, we will come out of these difficult days, but it won’t happen unless more of us rise up out of our slumber of silence.  Mayor Foster is absolutely right, “As goes the university, so goes the city of Hammond.” 

Of course, there is an elephant in the room.  A big one.  And that is this: we have leadership crisis in Baton Rouge.  While we are starving higher education and going down, most states are reinvesting in higher education, including our neighboring states of Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas, adding fiscal resources to higher education.  Yup, we have a leadership crisis in Baton Rouge.

It has been said that if given lemons, we ought to make lemonade.  That’s a nice thought, a positive spin on things.  The problem, now, is the lemons are dried out, and the lemonade has been all drunk up.  No more lemonade can be made. 

Well, perhaps we ought to look at things as a glass half full, instead of half empty.  A nice thought, too.  But, that is problematic, as well, because there is no more water in the glass.  To be sure, we have a leadership crisis in Baton Rouge.

These draconian cuts to Southeastern have placed an incredible financial burden on students, have created unsustainable hardships on faculty, and staff—on families, and soon—if not already—the business community in Hammond and surrounding area will share the pain.  To put it another way, if Southeastern goes away, no more new chicken places will be coming to town, and most of the others will close down.  Bye-bye Starbucks, hello vacant lot.  Yes, we have a leadership crisis in Baton Rouge.

But, there is a light.  And that light is all of you, is me, is Dr. Crain. Collectively, we can right this ship, by—as one insightful thinker at Southeastern puts it—“Standing up, speaking up, and not shutting up” so much so to move Baton Rouge to assert leadership that rightly funds higher education in the state of Louisiana, that rightly supports Presidents of Universities, like Dr. Crain, and that rightly supports students in elevating their possibilities to make a better Louisiana.

Some in here may be thinking, odd introductory remarks for an-opening-academic-year convocation.  Perhaps, but I don’t think so, simply because the urgency of the times demands it.  Contrary to Jack Nicholson’s iconic line in the motion picture, A Few Good Men, I suspect this audience can handle the truth.

As I introduce Dr. Crain, I am reminded of the words of Victor Hugo, the great French writer who wrote, “Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.”  Indeed, the President of Southeastern Louisiana University continues to strongly move forward, despite the fragility of the circumstances.  It is my great honor to introduce Dr. John Crain.

***Used with permission.

Blogger Dayne Sherman resides in Ponchatoula. He covers the South like kudzu and promises that he never burned Atlanta. He is the author of author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website is

Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sage of Tangipahoa Parish speaks bravely

Profiles in Real Courage

Dayne Sherman
August 11, 2013
Published in the Daily Star and elsewhere.
Words: 550

After Hurricane Katrina, a wise man appeared in Tangipahoa Parish. His name is C.B. Forgotston, and he stands alone as the most important commentator on Louisiana politics writing today.

I’ve met Mr. Forgotston face-to-face only one time. It was at St. Vincent de Paul. We were both dropping off items. Through Twitter and other venues, however, Forgotston is always quick to answer my many questions. He serves as the Bayou Socrates never taking a fee for his advice and analysis.

Even during the rare moments when I disagree with his positions, I appreciate his perspective and his courage.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from him is what I like to call the “The Forgotston Equilibrium.” It’s a flawless economic principle. Each time tuition is raised, Governor Bobby Jindal and his lapdog legislators cut higher education funding by an equal or greater amount.

For this economic theory, Forgotston should win the Nobel Prize just like Milton Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Joseph Stiglitz.

In other words, “The Forgotston Equilibrium” explains why Louisiana universities can’t possibly tax students into prosperity.

Raising tuition is a lose-lose game, and with the advent of a burgeoning community college system charging far lower tuition, the demise of universities will continue unabated into the foreseeable future.

Remember the $250 million construction engorgement passed during the last legislative session that will build community colleges in every crack and corner of Louisiana? Between misguided community college competition and higher university tuition, I predict that every university in Louisiana with the exception of LSU and perhaps Tech and ULL will start dropping 400-500 students a year until the entire student body can fit into a janitorial closet.

Louisiana higher education is being systematically destroyed. The culprit is not a lack of tax revenues. No, it’s a matter of priorities. These priorities come from the governor and our elected representatives.

Our primary recourse as citizens is to let our “representatives” know that they are not representing us with their pork barrel projects, often called NGOs, obese consulting contracts, and state money spent on local boondoggles.

Let the politicians know that their choices make them anathema, and in 2015 they will be thrown out of office like a big old snake that has slithered inside the house through the kitchen door: swiftly and with plenty of malice.

I find it ludicrous when local leaders run around like hound dogs covered in red ants and can’t quite figure out how to stop the cuts to higher education and other essential state services.

Haven’t these nitwits read C.B. Forgotston’s recent columns?

Here’s how to stop the bleeding in higher education and elsewhere. Stand up, speak up, and don’t shut up.

Of course, this takes backbone. In Hammond, my hometown, a newly evolved subspecies of human invertebrate is leading much of the political and business community. How disgraceful.

In a world of hacks, charlatans, suck-ups, higher education bureaucrats, political appointees, and fawning politicians, it’s nice that we have C.B. Forgotston telling it like it is. At least Hammond has one resident with a fully formed adult spine.

Louisiana and Hammond need people like Forgotston now more than ever.

Dayne Sherman resides in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. He covers the South like kudzu and promises that he never burned Atlanta. He is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website is
Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker

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Talk About the South Blog:
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***This message speaks only for the writer, a citizen, not for any present or past employer.***