The Association of Louisiana Faculty Senates is taking aim at Southern University and its alleged mistreatment of faculty.
The association’s vice president, Kevin Cope, who also is the LSU Faculty Senate president, wrote a letter asking for the Louisiana Board of Regents to intervene in Southern’s ongoing budget problems.
The Board of Regents is meeting Wednesday and Thursday to review and give final approval to the budgets for all of Louisiana’s public colleges.
Cope said Tuesday that faculty statewide are particularly frustrated by the threats of a financial emergency, called exigency, at Southern and the pressure placed on faculty to accept voluntary furloughs — mandatory time off without pay — that equate to a 10 percent loss in their annual pay.
Cope wrote that faculty statewide are “unnerved and annoyed” by the events that have transpired during the budget debates at Southern.
“What the faculty of our state want — whether they hail from Shreveport, Monroe or New Orleans — is for the Regents to advise the new Southern administration that balancing the budget at the expense of faculty, whether through furloughs or the threat of financial exigency, is bad educational policy,” Cope wrote.
The loss of faculty pay and the “reputation-destroying plundering of the faculty,” Cope said, will look worse when university professors start getting weekend jobs as Walmart greeters.
Cope noted that faculty furloughs will save the university little more than $1 million at a time when Southern is increasing its subsidy to its struggling athletic department by another $1 million.
He said he hopes the letter at least helps the Regents “send the message” to the Southern leadership.
In an email response to a request for comment, state Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell said, “I share Dr. Cope’s appreciation for the retention of good faculty during especially during tough budget times.
“Many of the items in his letter have been on our radar for many months and we anticipate a robust discussion during (Wednesday’s) budget hearings surrounding them,” Purcell added.
Southern is planning to implement 10 percent furloughs to all employees making at least $30,000, except for tenured faculty who do not voluntarily accept the furlough time. Tenured faculty can only be furloughed voluntarily or through exigency.
Southern Chancellor James Llorens had said at least 90 percent of the faculty had to accept furloughs to avoid declaring exigency. Only roughly 60 percent volunteered, but the Southern Board of Supervisors rejected the request to declare exigency in a split vote.
Since then, about 20 tenured faculty members have asked for their furlough agreements to be withdrawn, Southern Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi said, lowering the amount of the tenured faculty who volunteered to about 50 percent.
The other furlough agreements have been passed on to Llorens, Trivedi said.
Llorens was traveling from Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and did not respond to interview requests.
While Trivedi argued the furloughs are bad policy, he said the faculty would continue to ask the other 50 percent to accept the voluntary furloughs so they can be united and so the administration will not attempt to declare exigency again.
But when faculty are forced to take time off, Trivedi said, it means taking time away from faculty helping students.