To the Editor:
October 27, 2009, was a historic day for Louisiana State University at Eunice. The national-award-winning chapter of the Students in Free Enterprise program died, even though in nine active years it won more national, international, and regional awards than all the other organizations on campus did in the 40-plus-year history of the university: four national championships, three second-place finishes, and two third-place finishes, plus nine special-competition national championships.
The SIFE program's students leveraged classroom experience, the expertise of faculty advisers and a business advisory board, and the resources of the university to develop projects that empowered people to live better lives. Our projects addressed a variety of topics, such as market economics, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, personal-success skills, environmental sustainability, and business ethics. Students were encouraged to work within the framework of these topics while adapting their approaches to the diverse needs of people in different communities. They helped aspiring entrepreneurs achieve success, equipped the unemployed with skills to find productive employment, taught families how to gain financial security, and brought economic development to struggling neighborhoods. As a result, our program was global in scope and purpose, with the flexibility and responsiveness of a community-based organization. We were also very fortunate in that the program had seven faculty sponsors.
Research shows there is a direct correlation between high-quality student academic organizations and student achievement. Spending that encourages high-quality student service programs is an important variable related to better student achievement. Dollars talk here. This program was a cost-effective way of improving student achievement—a goal we all, I thought, shared.
When the program's financing was cut, however, almost in the same breath we were told we would have to have the administration's approval to approach our historical supporters. Then the program died. The community was given a clear choice between sports or academics, although in the past they had worked well together. Today, apparently, this is no longer the case.
The challenges facing our country today require students to understand their communities—local, national, and global. This understanding is learned both in the classroom and in the community through outreach programs, but never on the baseball field. And SIFE brought top business leaders of today together with the students who will be the leaders of tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business and community service—which, again, never happens on a baseball field.
Parents, taxpayers, students, business leaders, and community members must demand that colleges and universities allow highly competitive student academic organizations to expand and grow. This is not about state budget cuts—it is about administrative support and administrative priorities.
Fred Neal Landry
Professor of Business Administration
Vice Chairperson of the Faculty Senate
Louisiana State University at Eunice