LSU employees to get raises; up to 4 percent

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- The LSU Parade Ground is at the center of the LSU Baton Rouge campus, shown here in 2010.
Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- The LSU Parade Ground is at the center of the LSU Baton Rouge campus, shown here in 2010.

LSU System President King Alexander announced Friday that faculty and staff statewide will soon be getting either a pay raise or a one-time salary bump of up to 4 percent.

Those increases would be the first pay adjustment for LSU employees in four years.

Alexander said the salary adjustments are necessary at a time when LSU continues to lose faculty to other institutions resulting in larger class sizes and low employee morale.

“This is a long overdue action that has been precluded by financial circumstances,” Alexander said in a prepared statement. “While we still have considerable financial challenges, our first priority must be faculty and staff this year.”

While Alexander’s announcement was greeted with a round of applause from faculty and staff at Friday’s LSU Board of Supervisors meeting, the details of who will get a raise, who will receive a supplement and the amount of those increases remains unclear.

Alexander said the salary adjustments will be merit-based; they will vary by campus and by job description; and “will impact the vast majority” of employees. LSU officials on Friday said they did not know how many people they anticipate getting salary increases or what the final cost of those adjustments will be.

Jason Droddy, LSU’s director of external affairs, said those things may not become clear for several months.

“The president asked the chancellors: ‘What is it they could afford in the current year,’ ” Droddy said. “This will vary by institution and what they’re able to do.”

It would cost slightly more than $9 million to give everyone on LSU’s main campus a full 4 percent raise, he said.

Droddy said the money for the pay adjustments would come from anticipated enrollment increases and internal savings that have taken place over the years.

But Droddy acknowledged that since department heads will have discretion to decide who will get an adjustment, it’s possible that some LSU employees won’t see any increase on their paychecks at all.

Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope, a frequent critic of the LSU board and past administrations, said he was “relieved, cautious and surprised” by Alexander’s announcement.

“It’s a long time coming and it’s especially necessary,” Cope said. “I’m cautious because I want to be grateful but I don’t want to give the impression that this solves the entire problem of salaries. I’m surprised because I didn’t expect this to materialize so quickly.”

Cope, a self-titled “full-time complainer,” went on to praise Alexander for accomplishing something that faculty have been fighting for going back several years.

“I’m grateful that President Alexander has managed to be so catalytic so early in his career,” Cope said.

Cope added that he doesn’t expect anyone to go completely without a salary adjustment. “I’d be surprised if anyone is completely stiffed,” he said.

The news of the pay increases came just a few hours after a number of faculty pleaded with the board to find a way to increase their pay. LSU has lost 220 faculty since 2008, many of whom left for higher-paying jobs at other universities.

Associate professor M. Reza Pirbhai, a researcher studying the modern Middle East, said he’s leaving LSU for Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

English professor Anna Nardo read a statement from former LSU political science faculty member Laura Moyer, who left LSU after five years and is now teaching at the University of Louisville.

“For many junior faculty members, it feels too financially risky to make a long-term commitment to stay at an institution that has not made a long-term commitment to them. The repeated budget cuts and negative rhetoric from the Legislature only rub salt in the wounds and undermine morale further,” Nardo read.