Southern University faculty leaders said Thursday they will continue to fight against declaring a financial emergency at the university if it is proposed again next week.
Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi told his colleagues Thursday he would “vigorously oppose” such a declaration, called an exigency, if it is added to the Southern Board of Supervisors’ Oct. 28 agenda.
Although the Southern Board rejected exigency in September, Chancellor James Llorens said earlier this month there is a good chance he would ask for it to be added to the meeting agenda.
He cited ongoing budget problems and issues with implementing voluntary faculty furloughs — time off without pay.
Llorens did not respond to interview requests Thursday, but board Chairman Darren Mire said he would not be surprised to see the matter before him again.
“The chancellor has left that door open,” he said.
Declaring an exigency would allow the administration more leeway to lay off tenured faculty, mandate furloughs and ax academic programs.
An exigency is generally considered a serious blemish that could scare away current and potential employees and students.
No public Louisiana university has declared an exigency since the University of New Orleans did so after Hurricane Katrina.
The president of the Louisiana Conference for the American Association of University Professors, Alvin Burstein, told the Southern professors there is a statewide assault on faculty through exigency.
Typically, an exigency only became an issue in situations that “threatened the life of an institution as a whole,” Burstein said.
Now, colleges are trying to change policies, he said.
Officials want to declare an exigency just for individual academic departments, he said.
That would allow administrators to selectively terminate specific academic programs and professors with reduced notice, Burstein said.
The American Association of University Professors, the nation’s top professor organization, contends an exigency should only be allowed in dire circumstances and include input from faculty, Burstein said.
The faculty should be heavily involved in the decision-making after such a declaration is made. That is not happening at Southern or throughout much of the state, he said.
The Faculty Senate also approved a resolution Thursday that the university form a faculty-heavy committee to review and study Llorens’ upcoming academic reorganization proposal.
Llorens has said the proposal could be up for Southern Board approval as early as Nov. 25.
The plan is expected to include the closure or consolidation of several Southern colleges, schools and academic programs.
Southern has 11 colleges or schools within the main Baton Rouge university.
“One does not reorganize a university based on expedient financial considerations only,” Southern physicist Diola Bagayoko complained.
Trivedi said the proposal likely will consolidate the university into four to six academic colleges.
Southern criminal justice professor Chanika Jones said she was told by administrators that the closure or consolidation of her Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs is a virtual certainty.
Trivedi said the Graduate School and the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences also are among those at risk.