Southern University next week will start laying off some librarians, carpenters, painters and administrative assistants to help balance the university budget that was finalized this week, Southern Chancellor James Llorens said Friday.
The university must eliminate “critical” vacancies in areas likes the registrar and admissions offices, as well as the police department, Llorens said.
The additional job cutbacks became necessary after the Southern Board of Supervisors rejected the request to declare a financial emergency on the campus in order to implement greater tenured faculty furloughs and shorter job termination notices for faculty to save money.
Overall, Southern’s roughly 1,200-person workforce is down 129 jobs from last year — counting retirements — 82 of which were layoffs or eliminated vacancies, Llorens said.
Additional budget cuts are expected in the coming weeks, Llorens said, because the final student enrollment is likely to be at best 6,700 to 6,800 students, which is well below the 7,000 projection. Southern enrolled 7,300 students last year and as many as 9,500 as recently as 2004.
“We’ll have to start looking at additional cost-saving measures,” Llorens said. “We haven’t identified those yet.”
Llorens blamed much of the enrollment decline this fall on the awkward switch to the new BANNER online system for registration and financial aid that caused many delays and problems.
“Some students we lost just through the frustration of not being able to get their financial aid packages processed in time,” Llorens said, noting that about 95 percent of Southern’s students receive financial aid.
“We believe that it’s been corrected to the point that it’s not going to happen again,” Llorens said.
As for declaring exigency, it would have allowed the administration more leeway and expediency to lay off tenured faculty and ax academic programs.
Exigency is generally considered a serious blemish that could scare away current and potential employees and students. No public Louisiana university has declared exigency since the University of New Orleans did so after Hurricane Katrina.
More than 60 percent of the tenured Southern faculty signed voluntary agreements to accept 10 percent furloughs as well. But the Southern administration said 90 percent participation is required to offset the financial problems.
The amount below 90 percent required at least an extra $500,000 in budget cuts, Llorens said.
The 10 percent furloughs — roughly 22 days off without pay scattered throughout the school year — are campus wide, except for tenured faculty who did not volunteer. Employees making less than $30,000 are not impacted.
Southern Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi said Friday that they are continuing to ask tenured faculty to accept the voluntary furloughs in order to avoid greater staff layoffs.
But there have only been a few takers now that the Southern Board voted down exigency, Trivedi said.
“People have gotten in the mood that financial exigency is gone and that’s not true,” he said. “Exigency will keep coming back on the table.”
Trivedi said he assumes the other faculty or “either selfish or taking a principled stand.”
“Whatever the case is, I’m disappointed in the results,” he said.
As for another problem on campus, some part-time and temporary Southern faculty have not yet received their paychecks this semester.
Llorens said processing delays caused the issues and that the paychecks will go out next week. “We expect everybody to be processed next week,” he said.
Despite the ongoing financial problems, Llorens insisted Southern is not going anywhere. Morale and university enrollment may be at low points, but progress will take hold this year, he said.
“This is a critical year for the university, but I think this is a good year for us,” Llorens said.
The goal is to finalize some administrative and academic restructuring in November, including the termination of some academic programs, and to then move forward, he said.
Southern Student Government Association President Demetrius Sumner said student are “breathing a sigh of relief” after exigency was rejected.
“The university is really going to come out stronger than ever,” Sumner said. “Each time we’ve been met with a challenge, we’ve risen above it.”