Southern board again delays vote on emergency
BATON ROUGE - Faculty at Southern University's main campus persuaded the university governing board Friday to again delay a vote on whether to declare a financial emergency for the Baton Rouge school.
Southern leaders say "financial exigency" can be avoided if 90 percent of the 282 permanent professors agree to two years of consecutive furloughs of up to 10 percent. Faculty leaders said they believe they can reach that benchmark over the holiday weekend.
The Southern University System Board of Supervisors voted 12-4 Friday to give professors until Tuesday afternoon to try to gather enough signatures, only hours before a balanced budget plan is due to the state Board of Regents.
"They have been patient with us. We should be patient with them," Southern board member Tony Clayton said of trying to give faculty the time to get the needed furlough agreements.
It was the third delayed vote on whether to declare an emergency for the current 2011-12 budget year that ends June 30.
The declaration would give the historically black university more leeway to lay off professors and cut their salaries, but would be considered a negative mark against the school that could harm recruiting and accreditation.
A board room packed with students, staff and faculty urged board members against declaring exigency, saying it could harm the university's reputation and the value of degree programs. Others argued Southern administration officials should be sacrificing more and making deeper cuts to help the Baton Rouge campus balance its budget.
Chancellor James Llorens, who is recommending the emergency status, said he doesn't believe enough professors will agree to the furlough by next week. Llorens said the school needs exigency to require the faculty pay cuts and restructure the university so that it doesn't face continued budget gaps in later years.
"You want to burn the house to kill a fly," said Sudhir Trivedi, president of the campus faculty senate.
Administrators and staff at the Baton Rouge campus have had two years of furloughs, according to Southern officials. Only faculty has been exempt. The average professor makes about $65,000.
No public Louisiana university has declared exigency since the University of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.