A potential declaration of a financial emergency at Southern University is delayed until Friday to allow the administration and faculty more time to work toward a compromise.
Southern Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi said a general agreement was reached with Chancellor James Llorens for the faculty to accept furloughs this year and next, if deemed necessary from a budgetary perspective.
The furloughs — time off with up to a 10 percent loss in annual pay — are intended to avoid the financial emergency, called exigency, and the shorter job termination notices for faculty that Llorens had requested.
The big remaining catch is that each faculty member must individually agree to the furlough plan. The Southern administration reiterated Wednesday that at least 90 percent of the faculty must voluntarily accept the furloughs in order to avoid exigency.
Southern Board of Supervisors Chairman Darren Mire said the special board meeting — originally scheduled for Wednesday — was postponed to Friday because the Louisiana Board of Regents gave Southern an extension until Tuesday to submit its university budget.
“Obviously, we’re trying to avoid it (declaring exigency),” Mire said.
“But we really need two years of the furloughs for this to work,” Mire said. “We have to get 90 percent of the faculty to approve these furloughs.”
Trivedi said the faculty leadership will try. The Faculty Senate is meeting again Thursday. But the short amount of time is a big problem, he said.
“We’ll see if we can energize the faculty and get the signatures,” Trivedi said Wednesday. “But that (90 percent) is going to be a challenge.”
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.
Trivedi reiterated his plans to seek an injunction in federal court to prevent exigency if the Southern Board agrees to declare an emergency. He said Southern has failed to use exigency only as a true last resort as required by its bylaws.
Southern University System President Ronald Mason Jr. said people should not read too much into the board meeting delay. “We had the time, so we took the time to make the extra effort,” Mason said.
He emphasized though that the Faculty Senate cannot legally bind the entire faculty to accept furloughs, so the need for individual signatures remains.
“My understanding was that had to happen in order to avoid exigency,” Mason said. “At least that’s what was said in the board meeting (last week).”
Trivedi said Mason and Llorens continue to “undersell” the negative impact of exigency.
“I don’t believe exigency is necessary or imminent,” Trivedi said. “I think some people just want to build the university in their own way.”
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 leaders have argued that $1.5 million saved in faculty furloughs should not break the back of a $78 million overall campus budget.