The Advocate writer Jordan Blum wrote an article titled “Some faculty renege on SU deal” in the Sept 16, publication. Stating that some Southern University tenured faculty who had previously signed voluntary furlough agreements are beginning to bail from those agreements, Blum failed to state just what “the deal” actually was, thereby leaving open the possible interpretation of questionable integrity and commitment on the part of the faculty. Nothing could be further from the truth. So let me set the record straight.
First and foremost, it should be clear that managing the university’s finances and balancing its budget is the responsibility of the Southern University administration, with oversight by the Southern University Board of Supervisors, which legally has fiduciary responsibility for the entire Southern University System. This is not the responsibility of the faculty. At the Aug. 15 fall convocation, Chancellor James L. Llorens told employees that the university could not balance its 2011-12 budget unless it furloughed all employees (except those making less than $30,000) at a rate of 10 percent reduction of their salaries. It was his intent to implement this furlough mandatorily until he had been informed by university legal counsel that he could not furlough tenured faculty without their written permission. He stated further that legal counsel had advised him that the university would need 95 percent-100 percent approval of the faculty furlough and a reduced notice requirement for possible termination of employment and/or academic programs related to the proposed restructuring of the university “in order to avoid implementing other options” (translation: financial exigency).
In an agreement reached by the SU Board of Supervisors, Chancellor Llorens and the SU Faculty Senate, the board agreed to reject an anticipated recommendation for financial exigency from Chancellor Llorens and SU System President Ronald Mason on the condition that 90 percent of tenured faculty signed the furlough agreements. In actuality, only some 60 percent of tenured faculty, myself included, signed voluntary furlough agreements to reduce their salaries by 10 percent for the 2011-12 academic year and the 2012-13 year, if deemed necessary.
Contrary to the original condition under which faculty signed the agreements, the board accepted the 60 percent and rejected the recommendation for financial exigency. Hence, 50 percent-60 percent of the tenured faculty are now bearing a burden that was intended for the 90 percent-95 percent said to have been needed for implementation. Those who withdrew their voluntary agreements did so in accordance with the terms of the original deal. To be sure, these individuals did not want financial exigency. What they wanted was equal voluntary responsibility among tenured faculty for solving the financial problems of Southern University.
Elaine Bremer Lewnau, professor
Southern University and A&M College