Southern board OKs pay raises

The pay raises “are in line with the transformation plan. We had to stop the bleeding, stabilize and then rebuild. This is a part of rebuilding.” Ronald Mason, Southern system president

Southern University’s Board of Supervisors approved a wide range of pay raises Friday for employees at four out of the system’s five campuses.

Only Baton Rouge campus employees were left out. Administrators said Baton Rouge employees could get some type of pay bump in the near future once the campus’ budget picture becomes clearer.

Baton Rouge Chancellor James Llorens said he would wait until he gets his school’s final enrollment numbers and see how those numbers fit into his budget before making a decision.

“If there is an opportunity for a strategic adjustment, we’ll do that,” Llorens said.

Southern system President Ronald Mason called the pay increases for the other units part of his plan to streamline the five campuses, making them more efficient and better equipped to compete for students at a time when state governments around the country are slashing funding for higher education.

Southern has been hit hard by funding reductions, particularly the Baton Rouge campus, as tuition has risen and state-mandated higher admission standards have kicked in.

As a consequence, Southern has become vulnerable to losing staff as employees leave in pursuit of more competitive wages.

The pay raises “are in line with the transformation plan,” Mason said. “We had to stop the bleeding, stabilize and then rebuild. This is a part of rebuilding.”

Southern University at New Orleans Chancellor Victor Ukpolo called faculty losses especially troubling when SUNO pays moving expenses to get faculty to Louisiana from other states only to lose them to nearby schools.

“New Orleans is a very high-cost city and we’re continually losing faculty,” Ukpolo said. “It’s very painful to lose faculty when they go across the street to Xavier or Dillard.”

SUNO employees will get an across-the-board 2 percent salary increase with an additional 1 percent pay raise for certain employees based on merit.

Southern Agricultural Center Chancellor Leodrey Williams said low entry-level wages have put some of his longtime employees in a position where they have to train newer hires who make more money.

Full-time Southern AgCenter employees will get a 4 percent pay raise.

Southern’s Law Center is in a different position. The law school’s enrollment historically has been stable, but employee wages have lagged behind peer schools. Additionally, employees who have taken on extra duties have not received higher pay.

Law School Chancellor Freddie Pitcher Jr. said his campus is under orders from the state to increase out-of-state tuition enough to resemble the prices charged by peer institutions.

Pitcher said out-of-state tuition has more than doubled over the years from the $4,000 law students were paying several years ago.

Southern law school employees will get 3 percent pay increases with a select few who have taken on extra work getting 4 percent raises.

“This is a budget-neutral reorganization plan,” Pitcher said.

Unlike the other campuses, Southern University at Shreveport employees did not get a permanent salary increase. Instead, Chancellor Ray Belton said he will increase pay by $300 for adjunct professors and $500 in cases of “overload” where instructors are asked to teach extra sections.

Mason, the system president, said he’s identified about $1.2 million he anticipates can be used for one-time salary bumps for Baton Rouge and Shreveport employees in the future.