The Southern University Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Friday on whether the main Baton Rouge campus will declare a state of financial emergency, called exigency.
Southern Chancellor James Llorens has insisted that nearly all faculty agree to 10 percent furloughs — time off without pay — and shorter job termination notices as the only way to avoid exigency because of campus budget problems.
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.
Llorens said Tuesday he is requesting exigency for a one-year period.
The Southern Faculty Senate voted unanimously last week to oppose exigency and the “voluntary furlough and program discontinuance” agreements that faculty received.
The stalemate has not ended and Llorens said “devastating” staff layoffs will be required without faculty support, or if the Southern Board rejects declaring exigency.
Southern Board Chairman Darren Mire, of New Orleans, said board members will discuss the pros and cons starting Thursday in Shreveport at the board’s annual public meeting retreat.
Mire said he is undecided on whether he would support declaring financial exigency. “No matter what we do, it’s going to be drastic,” he said Tuesday.
Llorens said he has to reduce the pay of all Southern employees by 10 percent for one year — not counting those making less than $30,000 — in order to balance the budget.
Llorens said the furloughs, even with exigency, are the “most feasible way” to cut the budget without disrupting students during a year of academic reorganization on campus.
Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi said that $1.5 million or so saved in faculty furloughs should not be the difference between declaring exigency in a $77 million university budget. He said more administrative cuts can be made.
Trivedi said Southern is violating its own rules and national standards by attempting to declare exigency without enough research and without it being a true last resort.
“The administration is basically shortchanging the students by declaring financial exigency,” Trivedi said. “The faculty doesn’t want to be the reason for the demise of this institution.”
Tenured and tenure-track faculty cannot be furloughed unless they voluntarily accept the pay cuts or if financial exigency is approved.
Llorens said the furloughs would be temporary. Structural changes and program cuts made in the next few months should be long-term. Such fixes would require faculty, who are laid off because their academic program was eliminated or consolidated, to be actually out of the job — and off the payroll — by the end of the school year, he said. That is why the shorter termination notices are needed, he said.
Tenure or tenure-track faculty typically requires a one-year termination notice.
For the past two years, Southern staff have been furloughed, which amounted to a 4.6 percent reduction in pay. But the faculty was not included.
Southern is in its third year of reduced funding from state government. The university has been affected by budget problems more than most colleges because Southern also has lost revenue from its declining enrollment.
A university that once had more than 10,000 students, it now enrolls more than 7,300 students.