With just more than half of the Southern University faculty slated to accept voluntary employee furloughs, some tenured faculty are beginning to bail.
Southern Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi said Thursday he is inclined to withdraw the furlough agreements for the nearly 20 faculty members thus far who have asked to take them back.
The Faculty Senate met for nearly three hours Thursday. Much of the time was with attorney Paul F. Bell, who advised them that faculty could withdraw their agreements because the Faculty Senate has not yet handed them over to the university administration.
Some faculty leaders argued that withdrawing the agreements would give the Southern Board of Supervisors an excuse to declare a financial emergency, called exigency, if they reduce the amount of faculty willing to take 10 percent of their job time off without pay.
“Once we go down that road, the administration will say, ‘Well, now we have to declare exigency because the faculty didn’t keep its word,’ ” said Faculty Senator Albert Samuels said.
But it is “outrageous” that the blame is being placed on the faculty when enrollment losses and administrative failures have created the budgetary problems, Samuels said.
The Southern Board of Supervisors last week rejected the administration’s request to declare exigency, which would have given the administration more leeway in eliminating academic programs and laying off faculty more quickly.
“It allows the (Southern System) President (Ronald Mason Jr.) to basically reorganize this campus without faculty input,” Faculty Senate Vice President Thomas Miller said. “That is a frightening scenario to me.”
The furloughs equate to 18 days off without pay for faculty during the academic year.
Southern Chancellor James Llorens said Wednesday he planned to move forward with faculty furloughs for 60 percent of the tenured faculty — including nearly everyone else on campus.
He did not respond to interview requests on Thursday but Llorens released a prepared statement after 5 p.m.: “The (furlough) agreement stated that once the faculty member signed the agreement, the agreement is final and irrevocable. The university has relied on the faculty voluntary participation in the furlough by reducing the number of anticipated layoffs to balance the budget. Therefore, the university expects the faculty to stand by their commitment.”
He had previously said at least 90 percent of the tenured faculty needed to accept 10 percent of their job time off without pay in order to avoid exigency.
Roughly 60 percent of the faculty — about 130 of 210 tenured faculty — signed such furlough agreements.
Because the faculty was not united, some who accepted the furloughs became upset they would lose money while many of their colleagues lost none.
Bell, a Baton Rouge lawyer who works with the American Association of University Professors, said he does not believe Llorens can legally implement the furloughs because he has not received the voluntary agreements. Llorens only has a list of who signed them.
“If the administration does not have your agreement, it is not yet valid,” Bell told the faculty.
“The Faculty Senate is in a great position to negotiate (with Llorens),” Bell added.
“I’m not going to send any contract to Llorens if you told me not to,” Trivedi told his colleagues.
Trivedi said he will discourage faculty from withdrawing their agreements. He said faculty should still push to reach 90 percent faculty furloughs.
Trivedi said he has not passed on the agreements to Llorens yet because he wants assurances that the chancellor will not seek exigency and will not attempt to amend university bylaws so faculty can be laid off with shorter termination notices.
Llorens did not respond Thursday to interview requests. But a memo to faculty requests they fill out forms pertaining to furlough schedules by Monday.
Several faculty members continued to disagree though on whether they should volunteer.
“Those (faculty) members who have refused to sign are selfish,” Southern professor Anthony Igiede said, arguing that fewer faculty furloughs mean more staff layoffs.