The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

Wainwright addresses faculty senate, talks cybersecurity, growth and retention

Eva Saladino
Dr. Wainwright taking the podium and addressing the members of the faculty senate at their first meeting of the semester.

On Wednesday, April 16, the SLU faculty senate met for the first time this semester in the Alumni Center with a special speaker, new SLU President Dr. William Wainwright.

Wainwright addressed the faculty to provide updates on various campus issues, specifically cybersecurity measures, investment in faculty and staff, as well as strategies for growth. 

The meeting’s most pressing topic was the cyber breach that caused havoc for staff and students in Spring 2023. Wainwright emphasized the importance of cybersecurity and the measures taken to protect the university’s data and systems while acknowledging that cybersecurity challenges are complex and require a delicate balance between transparency and the institution’s protection.

He noted that, as with the recent breach, communication might be restricted during such events to protect ongoing investigations and prevent further vulnerabilities. This is especially true when high-level law enforcement agencies such as the FBI get involved because “protecting the fidelity of the investigation” is paramount, Wainwright said.

“In many cases, it’s handled very restrictively to not jeopardize any type of investigation that would further make the institution more vulnerable. And so that is why you saw that pause… There’s a reason why our institution wasn’t in the media every day telling you, ‘This is what we think is going on,’” he said.

Additionally, SLU was not the only school targeted – six other institutions in the state were attacked, including LSU, Xavier and LA Tech, but seemed to be more prepared for a breach than Southeastern.

“They went dark on a Friday and came back up on a Monday. It took us a while, but also, we have done some incredible things to further fortify our IT infrastructure,” Wainwright said.

He reaffirmed the IT team diligently handled the situation to safeguard the university community, saying, “They did exactly what they were trained to do to protect the students, faculty and staff.”

Wainwright also discussed the need for communication transparency while considering the implications of cybersecurity investigations. He emphasized the university’s dedication to providing information and support to the best extent possible while adhering to security protocols and stressed he is personally committed to being forthright with faculty, staff and students on all fronts.

“You’re going to see me provide information, provide accessibility to the best level that I can, depending on the circumstances, this incident being one of them,” he said.

Aside from the cyber attack, Wainwright discussed the university’s strategic growth plan, which includes enrollment, student retention and engagement, and investment in faculty and staff. He acknowledged that when it comes to faculty pay, the university is “behind” while emphasizing the reality of the current university funding model in Louisiana. The state provides approximately 35% of the institution’s funding; the rest is contingent upon enrollment.

In discussing faculty pay, Wainwright said, “The message is we do want to grow. We want to grow strategically. We want to grow, especially when it comes to online, where we’re not cannibalizing our on-campus students, but we’re identifying those niche opportunities. Those we’re not serving regardless. It’s going to take those pivots and thinking differently about progressive growth to get us to the financial capacity.”

He pointed to a bright spot for the university this fall – that freshman enrollment appears to be trending up. “We know that we’ve maxed out our residence halls. We’ve not done that since 2019. That’s a good thing,” Wainwright said.

Wainwright also touched on the significance of student retention and engagement. He praised the work of faculty advisors and expressed his commitment to ensuring all faculty members have the necessary support to contribute to student success. To better meet the needs of students and their academic goals, he said the plan is to establish departmental engagements and tailor the recruitment process to suit students’ needs and academic pursuits better.

“What we’re looking to do is take that first initial experience with our students who are expressing interest, whether in graduate or undergrad, once we identify their interest in their declared major, that second engagement will be a direct departmental engagement only,” he said.

Wainwright noted the departments will identify their visions for engagement which will directly impact the recruitment process. Additionally, Wainwright pitched a new opportunity for transfer recruitment, which he believes is a critical step for the institution’s growth. 

He said, “We are going to have all five of our regional community college enrollment and admission teams on our campus in September. Additionally, we are going to pitch a new opportunity for recruitment of transfer students, as we no longer expect them to just show up and find us.” 

He explained the new process would involve going directly to the parishes and holding a transfer-ready day just for Southeastern. The transfer-ready day should secure future students, which would be an asset to the university. Lastly, to meet the needs of students, Wainwright plans to meet with them to talk about their lives outside of academics. 

“I want to meet one-on-one with students who are in academic suspension and have conversations with them about their readiness, about what their challenges are,” Wainwright said. 

He mentioned a study from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation from three years ago that identified that most students who dropped out of higher education had an average GPA of 2.7.

“It’s not because they’re not academically sustainable within the institution. It’s because life has happened to them. That’s why it’s important for me to talk to students who are on academic suspension to understand, look beyond the academic impact of their work and see what else we can do as an institution,” Wainwright explained. 

Wainwright’s address was the keynote of the first of many meetings the faculty senate will have this semester. These open meetings happen monthly in the Alumni Center from now until May. 

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About the Contributor
Eva Saladino, Staff Reporter
Eva Saladino is an English major with a concentration in creative writing. She has been a member of The Lion's Roar team since March of 2023 and works as a staff reporter. She hopes to have a children's book published after she graduates college and works as an environmental writer for the National Parks Magazine.
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