Maybe a declaration of financial exigency is in the best interest of Southern University’s Baton Rouge campus, which is facing declines in enrollment and state support, and could need broader latitude to implement some tough changes.
But declaring a financial emergency is a big move for any institution of higher learning. The high stakes underscore the need for the Southern University Board of Supervisors to be as diligent as possible in considering such a serious change. A declaration of financial exigency allows university officials to take unusual measures, such as firing tenured faculty, to help restore an institution to financial health.
We don’t believe there’s any way to implement a declaration of financial exigency while keeping everyone happy. Sometimes, university leaders have to do unpopular things to ensure the long-term viability of an institution. But the controversial nature of a declaration of financial exigency means every effort must be made to give the public a seat at the table when the issue is debated.
Instead, university officials waited until Wednesday evening to place the topic on the board’s agenda for its meeting today. That’s completely legal, acknowledging the 24-hour notice required by the Louisiana Open Meetings Law. But we believe as a matter of good public policy, more public notice should have been given before this measure is debated once again by the board.
James Llorens, chancellor of Southern University’s Baton Rouge campus, recently asked the Southern University Board for permission to declare a financial emergency on campus. The board rejected his request, but the issue has surfaced again.
Llorens had mentioned the possibility that the issue could be considered at today’s meeting, but that possibility wasn’t confirmed until the issue was placed on the board’s meeting agenda.
The late addition of this item to the Southern University Board’s agenda creates the suspicion that the public was brought into this discussion as an afterthought — and only after a lot of internal political maneuvering outside public view.
That’s no way to build public confidence when such a serious policy matter is on the table.