Showing posts with label Laurie Braden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laurie Braden. Show all posts

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Louisiana State University: $30 water bottles, an official personal-injury law firm, and a student's death from alcohol poisoning

I live a couple of blocks from Louisiana State University, and I occasionally visit the campus book store. Or I should say I visit the Barnes & Noble book store that operates on the LSU campus.

As I walked in a few days ago, I noticed a large stack of plastic water bottles, all bearing the LSU logo. How much does such a water bottle cost, I asked myself? I discovered there are two versions. The basic plastic water bottle is priced at $25 and the premium bottle costs 27 bucks.  Actually, the premium bottle costs almost $30 because the buyer also pays a 10 percent sales tax.

Thirty dollars for a plastic water bottle!

The campus bookstore also has a coffee bar that sells Starbucks coffee for about four bucks a pop. Incidentally, the coffee bar is not owned by Starbucks so you can't use your Starbucks gift card there to buy your Starbucks coffee.

But that's OK because most students have debit cards, which they whip out to pay for everything. And how are students paying for $30 water bottles and four-buck exotic coffee? With student loans, of course.

But the expensive items at the Barnes & Noble bookstore are small beer. LSU recently completed a $85 million leisure project that includes a a 645-foot "lazy river" water feature shaped in the letters LSU.

Mercilessly ridiculed for constructing this monstrosity, LSU officials solemnly defended the project. "I will put it up against any other collegiate recreational facility in the country when we are done because we will be the benchmark for the next level,"Laurie Braden,  LSU's recreation director, said in 2015. I have no idea what that means.

LSU's world-class spa is conveniently located near LSU's fraternity houses, but the frat boys apparently are not visiting it enough. Nine members of Phi Delta Theta were indicted this week on charges of hazing after Maxwell Gruver, a freshman from Georgia, died of "acute alcohol intoxication" while at a drinking party.

Hazing is a crime in Louisiana, but the frat boys' lawyers insist that the drinking incident was not hazing. As a matter of fact, a fraternity member lured Gruver to the drinking site by directing him to report for "Bible study." And perhaps that is the proper description of an incident that left Gruver's system pickled with five times the legal amount of alcohol in his system.

In any event, what's the big deal? According to experts, Gruver "probably slipped out of consciousness and died without pain . . ., as if under anesthesia." And no one was charged with murder because, hey, college boys will be college boys.

Mr. Gruver's death will soon be forgotten.  All that matters at LSU is football. LSU's stadium was expanded to seat 103,000 fans, including the high rollers who sit in air-conditioned executive suites and drink premium liquor while the plebeians sweat it out in the cheap seats.

Everyone wants to be associated with the LSU Tigers. In fact, the Tigers have an official personal-injury law firm by the name of Dudley DeBosier. What does it mean to be the LSU Tigers' official injury law firm? Dudley DeBosier explains it to us on its web site:

"Being the Official Injury lawyers of LSU Athletics means more to us than just a simple sponsorship," the firm assures us:
It means hot boudin, jambalaya, fried catfish, and more gumbo than you can eat. It’s thousands of smiling faces walking in between stately oaks and broad magnolias on a Saturday morning. It’s the sound of Tiger Stadium as you cheer on your team with 100,000 of your closest friends. It’s the traditions, tailgates, and everything else we love about Louisiana.
 Got it. So if I get maimed on Interstate 10 by an 18-wheeler, I'm going to hire Dudley DeBosier to sue the trucking company because--well, Dudley DeBosier is LSU's official injury law firm.

Meanwhile, LSU is tearing down an old dorm and constructing new, more luxurious student housing. Some LSU officials feel that the students should live in at least as much splendor as Mike the Tiger--LSU's mascot, who resides in a "habitat" that looks like Club Med.

LSU officials say they are only providing all these amenities because this is what today's students demand. And indeed, the student body voted to pay for the lazy river with student fees.  From the students' perspective, I suppose, the cost of going to college is immaterial. After all, everything is paid for with student loans; and if the costs go up, Uncle Sam and Wells Fargo are always there to loan students more money.

Maxwell Gruver probably "died without pain" from alcohol poisoning

Meanwhile, Mike the Tiger has his own private swimming pool.


Rebekah Allen, Grace Toohey, and Emma Discher. 10 booked in LSU fraternity hazing death case. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, October 12, 2017, p. 1.

Alla Shaheed. LSU's 'lazy river' leisure project rolls on, despite school's budge woesFox News, May 17, 2015.

Lela Skene. LSU fraternity pledge Maxwell Gruver's 'off the charts' blood-alcohol level shocks experts. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, October 11, 2017.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Up the Lazy River without a paddle: Universities use student fees to fund campus renovations and construction

In spite of financial woes so severe that LSU president F. King Alexander ruminated publicly about institutional bankruptcy, Louisiana State University is moving forward with an $85 million "leisure project" that will include a man-made "Lazy River" that spells out "LSU."

Shouldn't this project be put on hold until LSU's financial problems are solved? Not at all. LSU administrators insist that The Lazy River has nothing to do with LSU's budget worries.  This entirely gratuitous facility will be funded by a special fee assessment, which was earmarked for the Lazy River and the Lazy River alone.

But why? Laurie Braden, LSU's Director of Recreation said simply this: "I will put it up against any other collegiate recreational facility in the country when we are done because we will be the benchmark for the next level.”

Of course, LSU is not the only institution that is using student fees to fund campus construction and renovation projects. The New York Times reported recently that some universities are tacking mandatory meal plans on students' tuition bills, even if they don't eat on campus.  As reported in the Times, the University of Tennessee slapped a $300-per-semester meal plan on all undergraduates who do not purchase other meal plans, including commuters. The revenue generated will help pay for a new student union.

According to the Times, universities are outsourcing food services to private contractors and boasting about the cost savings. But as the Times noted, the cost of these contractual arrangements generally gets passed on to students.

Moreover, Times reporter Stephanie Saul wrote, "the particulars of the contracts reveal that much of the meal plan cost does not go for food at all. Colleges use the money to shore up their balance sheets, build workout facilities, create academic programs and projects, fund special "training tables" to feed athletes, and even pay for meals for prospective students touring campus."

All across America, anguished families are struggling with the high cost of attending college. "Why does it cost so much?" they ask.  "Reduced state funding,"glassy-eyed college administrators always mutter: that's the sole source of the problem.

But that's not true. Excessive student fees, outsourcing student services, cozy contractual relations with banks that manage students' money--all these things add up.

Why do college leaders outsource so many services and tack on so many fees?

Because they're lazy.  It is easier for university administrators to raise tuition every year and to tack on additional fees and charges than to make tough decisions about managing their institutions more efficiently.

So Lazy River is an apt metaphor for the state of higher education today. Every year, millions of students borrow more and more money in order to drift up a lazy river of increasingly expensive higher education, inching their way toward financial disaster.

The situation wouldn't be so bad if deserving students could discharge their overwhelming student-loan debt in bankruptcy. But most of them can't. They've truly gone up that Lazy River without a paddle.

LSU's proposed water recreation facility:
Up the Lazy River without a paddle


Stephanie Saul. Student Meal Plans Also Fund Renovations at Some Colleges.  New York Times, December 6, 2015, p. 1. Accessible at:

Aalia Shaheed. LSU's *85M 'lazy river' leisure project rolls on, despite school's budget woes. Fox News, May 17, 2015.  Accessible at: