SU staff to see bonus in Nov. paychecks

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Professor Diola Bagayoko tells the Southern University Board that it slandered his name during the board's meeting on Saturday on Southern's campus.  The board previously stripped Bagayoko of his department chairmanship under the suspicion he knowingly allowed a colleague to keep working for two semesters after being fired.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Professor Diola Bagayoko tells the Southern University Board that it slandered his name during the board's meeting on Saturday on Southern's campus. The board previously stripped Bagayoko of his department chairmanship under the suspicion he knowingly allowed a colleague to keep working for two semesters after being fired.

Southern employees working in the system office and on the Baton Rouge and Shreveport campuses will receive an extra $1,000 in their November paychecks, Southern University President Ronald Mason said Saturday in announcing the one-time bump.

“There’s been a lack of salary adjustments and raises over four years,” Mason said. “We have fewer people doing the same level of work without any reward.”

The single supplemental payment comes at a time when Southern administrators say they’ve turned a corner after weathering five straight years of state budget cuts.

Southern, particularly its flagship campus in Baton Rouge which has struggled to attract and keep students, has been hurt by tuition hikes to make up for the budget cuts and tougher admissions standards mandated by the state. Those circumstances have made Southern vulnerable to losing staff as employees left in pursuit of more competitive wages.

“The reality is that we live in a competitive environment where good staff and faculty are mobile,” Mason has said. “It’s not an entitlement; its about maintaining competitiveness.”

The financial relief comes about a month after Baton Rouge employees saw both their counterparts at LSU and their colleagues at Southern’s law school, agricultural center and New Orleans campuses get raises.

Mason said the pay hikes are part of a plan to stabilize and rebuild the Southern brand.

Select employees at Southern’s Shreveport campus got pay increases in September as Chancellor Ray Belton sought to increase the compensation for adjunct professors and faculty who teach more than their normal course loads.

Following a rare Saturday meeting of Southern’s Board of Supervisors, Mason said he hopes the salary increases and supplemental pay will boost morale on all of Southern’s campuses.

“This is a small token and a positive sign that things are moving in the right direction,” he said.

Only Mason and employees who have received a recent pay adjustment through job a reassignment or a promotion are being left out of this most recent round of pay hikes.

The money for Saturday’s action comes out of a $1.2 million in one-time funding Southern received from Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature this year to stop the bleeding on all of Louisiana’s college and university campuses.

The state has stripped higher education institutions of roughly $700 million since the nationwide economic downturn hit in 2008.

This year, however, lawmakers found an extra $40 million in the budget to spread out among the network of campuses that make up the Southern, LSU, University of Louisiana and community and technical college systems.

The extra cash helped Southern’s Baton Rouge campus balance its budget, but it wasn’t enough to match the other pay raises previously given out as follows:

The supplemental pay wasn’t the only good thing to come out of Southern’s board meeting. Baton Rouge Chancellor James Llorens said his campus has state approval to finally demolish the four dilapidated buildings that make up the Old Magnolia Triangle dormitories.

The buildings haven’t been in use for almost a decade.

In an addition to being eyesores that Southern administrators say have hurt recruiting, Llorens said the building are a health hazard.

The dormitories are currently in the “environmental abatement” stage with contractors removing asbestos from them.

“Sometime between now and April, those buildings are coming down,” Llorens said. “We anticipate that area being used for additional green space and recreational space for our students.”