The Southern University Board of Supervisors on Friday again delayed a vote declaring a financial emergency for the Baton Rouge campus.
The board gave faculty leaders until 1 p.m. Tuesday — roughly four hours before a state-imposed deadline — to come up with enough faculty members willing to accept a furlough, which amounts to a 10 percent pay cut.
Otherwise, the board will vote to officially declare “exigency,” a move that will give administrators more flexibility to lay off and cut the pay of tenured professors on the Baton Rouge campus of the university.
Board member Patrick D. Magee, a lawyer from Lafayette, had a made a motion to officially declare financial exigency. He said the university’s enrollment had declined 22 percent since 2004. Three years ago, the university budget was $92 million and now it is down 15 percent.
No public Louisiana university has declared exigency since the University of New Orleans did so after Hurricane Katrina.
Magee’s motion was sidetracked by board member Tony Clayton, a lawyer from Port Allen, who argued that faculty deserved a little more time. Board members approved the delay on a 12-4 vote.
The Board of Regents has ordered Southern to present a balanced budget by end of business Tuesday.
Southern Chancellor James Llorens said the roughly $80 million budget for Southern’s Baton Rouge campus decreased by about $10 million for the fiscal year that began July 1. About $8.3 million of that amount has been through other spending cuts, leaving about $1.7 million.
About 40 percent of Southern’s budget is salaries, and faculty members have not been asked to accept furloughs as other staffers have, he said. Tenured and tenure-track faculty cannot be furloughed unless they voluntarily accept the pay cuts or if exigency is approved.
Furloughs — unpaid time off — would lower annual salaries by about 10 percent, Llorens said.
The average annual salary for a Southern professor is $65,258, not including benefits, according to university spokesman Ed Pratt.
Faculty Senate Vice President Thomas Miller said about 55 faculty members have signed a document volunteering to accept a furlough. About 254 of the 282 full-time professors and associate professors on Southern’s Baton Rouge campus would have to sign.
But Llorens said the document being signed by Southern’s faculty is not quite what the administration needs to balance the budget.
Llorens said Southern needs the faculty to agree to accept furloughs during two consecutive years. The administration would not require a furlough during the second year if finances improve, he said.
Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi, a professor of computer science, said the faculty agrees to a furlough this year and, if declared necessary by a panel chosen by faculty and administration members, would then agree to a second furlough.
It may seem a minor point, said Board chairman Darren G. Mire, the assessor of the 1st Municipal District of Orleans Parish. But it’s important to the administration and ultimately will be decided by the 16-member Southern Board on Tuesday, he said.
The board room was packed with students, staff and faculty who argued, often to applause, for delaying the vote on exigency.
“Financial exigency is such a terrible thing for an educational institution that I would hope that you would go the extra mile, said Diola Bagayoko, a professor in Southern’s Physics Department and member of the faculty Senate.
“This may be the worst financial situation that I have seen,” said board member Eamon M. Kelly, the former president of Tulane University in New Orleans.
Declaring exigency would give Southern’s administrators the flexibility to restructure the Baton Rouge campus’s educational offerings and reorganize its finances, he said.