Faculty members at Southern University say pay disparities have created an “economic apartheid system” at the historically black college system.
Faculty leaders presented a resolution to the Southern University Board of Supervisors during its meeting Friday decrying the “gross disparities,” and several professors voiced their individual concerns over what they say has been stagnant pay for faculty and staff, even as administrative pay has gone up and incoming salaries have surpassed some longtime professors.
“It may seem like a small amount of money, but symbols matter,” said Albert Samuels, a political science professor and vice president of the Faculty Senate on the Baton Rouge campus. “You continue to communicate a sense that we really aren’t all in this together.”
The board on Friday approved several administrative hires and salary changes, including a $150,000 salary for the system’s new associate vice president for information technology and chief information officer, Gabriel Fagbeyiro.
The associate vice president job used to pay $120,000, but it has been merged with the CIO job, and the pay has been bumped. Another salary approved: $179,866 for former SU Law Center Chancellor Freddie Pitcher to remain on as a professor at the law school.
Tom Miller, a professor of foreign languages and Faculty Senate president, said it’s not just about faculty. Groundskeepers and maintenance workers are doing twice the work, as staffs have shrunk, and they haven’t seen large pay bumps.
One dean has served in a newly combined role with no salary increase, he said.
“Something is wrong with our salary structure,” Samuels said. “I can’t think of one administrator who has left Southern University because we weren’t paying enough, but I can tell you a lot of faculty have.”
Ray Belton, Southern University’s president and chancellor who has been on the job less than two months, said he wants to be responsive to the faculty concerns.
“The fact of the matter is, on all of the campuses, there have been instances of salary adjustments,” he said, though he acknowledged the raises have been “minimal” over the past eight years.
He said he knows salaries often don’t line up with the Southern average.
“We absolutely have to mitigate that gap,” Belton said.
But he said that might be difficult for cash-strapped Southern to address right away.
“I’m not sure we have resources to do that right now,” he said. “We will make salary adjustments across the system a priority, such that we finally are able to acknowledge them.”