BATON ROUGE – LSU President Dr. Tom Galligan does not know what the future holds for the state’s flagship university during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said he will address it the only way he knows how.

It will come through hope and optimism – and total priority toward safety – he told the Press Club of Baton Rouge in the first-ever virtual meeting in its 56-year existence.

The focus on safety will dictate how the university resumes classes in the fall.

“We’re absolutely planning to open in fall,” he said. “We’re going to get back to business, but we’re going to do it safety.”

It may mean large classes go online and smaller classes originate from larger halls.

The move will not happen all it once.

“We’re not turning on every light in the house at the same time,” Galligan said.

The university also intends to move forward with football at Tiger Stadium this fall.

The euphoric atmosphere in Death Valley could play a major role in the emotional recovery from the quarantine, he said.

“I think it’s important to play the season,” Galligan said. “Will it be played as played in previous years? It may be a little bit different in some ways, but it’s important to play the season and I hope we do so.

“It’s not just for revenue, but the spirit of it, for those of us, and for those of us who live in Louisiana, it’s really important,” he said. “I’m an optimist, but I want my morale lifted.”

Despite the optimism, Galligan knows a tough road lies ahead.

LSU and other universities now face a reduction in funding due to the COVID-19 epidemic and a nosedive in oil prices that will eliminate revenue the state had anticipated for the next fiscal year.

Universities have already braced for the cuts, but the full impact remains uncertain, Galligan said.

“We may well face less funding than we hoped for and we will react accordingly,” he said. “But we shifted our model over the past 12 or 13 years from the 80 percent funding to significantly less by the state, so maybe one of the things to come out of this is that we will be less adversely affected than we were in the past.”

Galligan assumed the leadership role upon the departure of F. King Alexander, whose farewell ceremonies March 13 took place the same day Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a State of Emergency to protect against the coronavirus.

He led the move from traditional classroom and auditorium settings to online courses.

“Online education has been a Herculean task, but my hat goes off to the staff, faculty and students who worked tirelessly to transition to a remote learning environment,” Galligan said. “Literally everyone made it happen.”