Southern University plans to consolidate administrative operations and increase revenue by integrating a two-year community college on the four-year university’s Baton Rouge campus, the head of the Southern system told a group of alumni Wednesday night.
“There’s nothing left to cut,” Southern University System President Ronald Mason Jr. said. “It’s about eliminating duplication. It’s about ratcheting up the revenue as fast we can.”
Southern board members are wrestling with proposed cuts to balance the budget for the fiscal year that began earlier this month. The board will need to vote on the cuts in August. Mason said the plan to restructure the five universities and colleges overseen by the Southern system, which also will go before board for approval in August, is aimed for the future.
“We cannot depend on the people downtown to save Southern,” said Duane Jordan, a Southern alumus. “We’re going to have to do that ourselves.”
Slightly more than 100 people crowded into a lounge overlooking the football field at A.W. Mumford Stadium to hear Mason’s restructuring plan for the future. Mason has been holding town hall-style meetings with Southern University alumni around the state to build support for his plan.
Mason’s plan includes a number of facets, such as privatizing food and custodial services systemwide.
Kevin Appleton, Southern System vice president for finance and business affairs, said one of the major parts of the plan is the consolidation of six business operations, such as human resources and accounting, into one Central Service Coordination Center.
Diola Bagayoko, Southern University professor of physics, told Mason that he recalled that earlier efforts to do much the same sort of restructuring had ended badly. Faculty, some of whom have been laid off, fear another effort could end up providing an excuse to cut programs and fire professors.
“We are not about to accept the wholesale firing of tenured faculty in the name of efficiency,” Bagayoko said.
Mason said the new structure was not a power grab. He would oversee the administrative activities, while the chancellors would oversee the faculty and students.
But consolidations and efficiencies are only part of the answer, Mason said. The system also needs to increase revenues.
Part of the plan calls for an online education program.
Mason said the statistics show that the majority of students who go to for-profit institutions, like University of Phoenix, started their educations at historically black colleges and universities, then dropped out to join the work force. Southern’s online university would tap those students who are returning to higher education while working, Mason said.
The plan also calls for opening a satellite of the Shreveport community college on the Baton Rouge campus, Mason said. The idea would allow those students who fail to meet the four-year university’s tougher new admission standards, a way to begin their higher education, live in dorms and participate in Southern’s student life. If the community college students improve, then they can seamlessly move into the university, Mason said.
“It’s about keeping the money in Southern,” Mason said.
Some members of the Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s universities and colleges, have voiced disapproval at Mason’s plan of opening a satellite of the Southern’s Shreveport community college on the Baton Rouge campus. “If I’m not breaking the law and you can’t fire me, then I’m going to do what I have to do,” Mason said.
He told the crowd that his job was safe for three more years. “I might not have it (his position Southern president) three years from now but I’ll have it tomorrow,” Mason said.