The Southern University Faculty Senate approved a plan Tuesday that would allow for faculty furloughs this year and again for the next academic year, if necessary.
The Southern Board of Supervisors meets Wednesday to consider a declaration of financial emergency, called exigency, for the main Baton Rouge campus unless a last-minute compromise is reached.
Southern Chancellor James Llorens has said at least 90 percent of the faculty will need to agree to furloughs — time off without pay — for this year and next of up to 10 percent of their pay in order to avoid exigency.
Although the 90 percent figure will not come to pass by the time of the board meeting, Southern faculty senator Diola Bagayoko said he is hopeful that “what we passed should be more than adequate for the board.”
After failing to reach an agreement Monday in a public meeting, 12 faculty senators met privately Tuesday morning without providing public notice. As a result, no media were present.
Bagayoko said the vote was unanimous. “It was an emergency meeting, but not really secretive,” he said.
Despite not being present at the meeting, Southern Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi said he hopes the faculty furlough plan helps avoid exigency. “Hopefully, it can help us dispel the image that the faculty isn’t willing to sacrifice,” Trivedi said.
Chancellor Llorens declined comment Tuesday.
Declaring a financial emergency allows the administration more leeway 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.
Moody’s Investor Services has placed the Southern University System on its “Watchlist” for a possible debt rating downgrade because of the potential for exigency.
Trivedi has said he will seek an injunction in federal court to prevent exigency if the Southern Board agrees to declare an emergency.
Without exigency, tenured and tenure-track faculty can only be furloughed on a voluntary basis.
For this year, Trivedi said the best-case scenario is “maybe 70 percent” for voluntary faculty furloughs of 10 percent.
According to the faculty plan approved Tuesday, furloughs would only be put into effect for the 2012-13 school year if a joint committee of faculty and administrators deems it necessary to balance the university budget.
The plan would not allow for exigency or shorter job termination notices for faculty, which Llorens originally wanted in order to enact academic program eliminations and layoffs more quickly.
For the past two years, Southern staff has been furloughed, which amounted to a 4.6 percent reduction in pay. But the faculty was not included.
Southern faculty have argued that $1.5 million saved in faculty furloughs should not break the back of a $78 million overall campus budget.