The Southern University Board of Supervisors Friday approved promotions and tenure for 17 faculty, but stripped the pay raises that went along with the new jobs.
The board voted 10-5 after hearing complaints that the Baton Rouge campus was increasing salaries during a time of financial stress and at the expense of Southern’s other campuses.
“Not to sugarcoat it, but we’re about to give a bunch of raises today,” Southern Board member Tony Clayton said. “As a board member, I have a fiduciary duty to balance the budget.”
“The Baton Rouge campus is in a very delicate situation,” said Ronald Mason Jr., president of the Southern System that oversees campuses in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport as well a law school and an agricultural center.
“Cutting alone is not going to be the answer to our future,” Mason said of revenue shortfalls in the budget. “If we’re going to have a bright future, we have to rely on our faculty.”
Declining enrollment and state budget cuts prompted Southern to declare a financial emergency, called exigency, in October 2011. The procedure allows administrators to circumvent restrictions that otherwise would hinder downsizing staff and consolidating academic programs.
In describing Southern’s Baton Rouge campus and the financial problems experienced over the past few years, Mason said: “I don’t look at it as a greedy child. I look at it as an ill child.”
Board member Patrick D. Magee said Mason’s analogy was incorrect. “The child’s illness is drug addiction,” he said, adding that the proper treatment is to take away the drugs.
“At some point in time we have to say, ‘Enough is enough. We can’t afford it’,” he said.
Magee said every other Southern campuses has made sacrifices and contributed funds to the Baton Rouge campus.
Mason countered, “We had to help the Baton Rouge campus for the system to work.”
The university reduced faculty at Southern Baton Rouge by about 70 positions as a result of downsizing allowed by exigency, he said. That has increased workloads for those who remain, he said. “We need a motivated faculty to balance next year’s budget,” Mason said.
Eamon M. Kelly agreed with Mason, arguing that since nothing was left to cut in the budget, the only choice was to increase revenues by increasing enrollment.
Faculty attracts students and Southern must compete to hire and retain quality professors, he said.
“Over the long term, the salvation of Southern is going to be on the revenue side,” Kelly said.
Southern Baton Rouge Chancellor James L. Llorens said the campus set a budget goal of enrolling 6,700 students. As of Friday, Southern Baton Rouge had registered 6,611 students, he said.
Clayton pointed at the enrollment coming a little short of projections and said he was concerned that the revenues would not be available to sustain pay raises, given the financial situation.
Llorens said the budget included a line item of about $300,000 to cover pay adjustments for this year and previous years.
But the actual cost for the 17 professors, assistant professors and associate professors whose promotions were approved Friday was only about $99,000.
Clayton moved to award the tenure and promotions but withhold the pay increases until Mason and Llorens could show that enough money was available to pay them.
Voting FOR promotions without raising pay (10): Board President Darren G. Mire, Murphy F. Bell Jr., Patrick W. Bell, Calvin W. Braxton Sr., Tony M. Clayton, Bridget A. Dinvaut, Walter C. Dumas, Warren A. Forstall, Myron K. Lawson and the Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert.
Voting AGAINST the Clayton motion (5): The Rev. Joe R. Gant Jr., Willie E. Hendricks, Eamon M. Kelly, Patrick D. Magee and Ann A. Smith.