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Southern revises budget plans, says closures aren't in the picture

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BATON ROUGE - The morning after saying deep cuts to state funding could effectively close their doors, Southern University said that is not the case.

SU Baton Rouge spokesperson Henry Tillman sent out a narrative Monday night which described the effects of a proposed 32 percent mid-year cut in state funding to colleges and universities. Tuesday morning, Tillman said that was a draft document and not the finalized version.

That narrative included a line saying the proposed $4.5 million cuts from Southern's state funds would end up "signaling the closure of the institution due to less than baseline operations... This reduction in non-instructional personnel is below skeleton level and will make most basic university functions ineffective at best and nonoperational at worst."

On Tuesday, Tillman sent out a revised narrative which did not include that language and apologized. Board of Regents spokesperson Dr. Katara Williams told News 2 there had been no discussions to close Southern University:

"At this time there are no discussions of any closures or mergers of universities. The Division of Administration simply made a request that there be a budget exercise by all university systems to submit budget reductions plans in response to  $131 million dollars in mid-year budget cuts for Louisiana higher education institutions. This was simply something where our systems came together and came up with potential implications should we realize a budget reduction of $131 million. At this time we are absolutely not having any discussions about any closures or mergers. This is simply to make sure we are prepared for the budget and the fiscal realities that could come."

The Board of Regents coordinates fiscal matters between public university systems and the governors office.

The revised budget narrative still said that Southern would have to cancel summer classes, furlough staff so they would only be working 2- or 3-days weeks, cut 200 non-tenured staff and faculty, as well as 125 adjunct and clinical instructors which would force them to cancel 200 courses. Southern said that mass course cancellation could also trigger legal issues and impact their ability to receive Title IV federal aid.

Most other universities in the system would reduce or eliminate adjunct staff, which would lead to canceling classes and in some cases sending many more students to tenured professors who would not be compensated for their time. Staff and service personnel would also be furloughed at many universities, increasing waiting periods for students to receive financial aid or other students services.

LSU also released plans Monday for how the mid-year cuts would affect their universities. The plans are meant to give lawmakers a picture of what would happen if the institutions were asked to shoulder that level of cuts in order to help fix Louisiana's $750 million mid-year deficit.

Lawmakers are expected to go into a special session on Feb. 14 to address the budget shortfall, and look at the proposed budget from Governor John Bel Edwards for the next fiscal year which faces a predicted $1.9 billion budget shortfall.

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