As chancellor of Southern University and A&M College, I am compelled to share the true story of this great university.
Recent news coverage has focused solely on Southern’s financial challenges and, in my opinion, has made a concerted effort to repeat quotes and inaccuracies to sensationalize while neglecting to include comments made in public meetings and discussions that would have provided a more honest assessment of the dialogue.
Southern University is addressing an issue that other universities in Louisiana and the nation are confronting — lower revenue as a result of reduced state appropriations and higher expenditures required as a result of factors such as unfunded mandates.
This fiscal year we faced a budget deficit of more than $10 million, a bad situation exacerbated by a trend of declining enrollment for the past few years. We are addressing our financial problem in the same manner with other colleges and universities around this country.
We are reducing support staff through attrition and layoffs, redirecting resources to create greater efficiencies and calling on all employees, faculty and staff to accept temporary furloughs as we balance this year’s budget and plan for the immediate and long-range future.
These strategies and budget reduction actions were developed and implemented after long and committed participation by a budget advisory committee with faculty, staff, student and administration representation.
We were supported by our system campuses in New Orleans and Shreveport and the Southern University Law Center. The Southern University System and President Ronald Mason joined in our meetings and supported the recommendations of the campus.
Our vision for the future calls for a restructuring of academic and administrative structures to position the university to continue to deliver an excellent learning experience, with an efficient administrative support structure, and expanding our programs to attract a diverse group of students and reverse the trend of declining enrollment.
Our consideration of financial exigency is based on a realistic assessment of our current financial situation and how best to address it quickly, effectively and with the participation of all units in the university. With or without declaring a financial emergency, we will move forward. The difference is in how quickly we can move forward with a comprehensive plan and vision.
Southern University will continue to be a vital institution within Louisiana’s higher education structure. The support of the Baton Rouge community is critical to our success. We appreciate the current support and look forward to even greater support and collaboration.
Our alumni base around the country has responded with encouragement and a renewed sense of true involvement. In 2014 we will celebrate 100 years in Baton Rouge, on the Bluff. In 2015 we will begin our second 100 years, bigger and stronger.
James L. Llorens, Ph.D., chancellor
Southern University and A&M College