Southern University Furlough Request Vote Rejected - Higher Education

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Southern University Furlough Request Vote Rejected

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE La. – The Southern University Faculty Senate has voted to oppose a proposed agreement to voluntarily accept furloughs and shorter job termination notices.

The Advocate reports ( http://bit.ly/nRMCrY) the vote came a day after new Southern Chancellor James Llorens said he “likely” will ask to declare a financial emergency next week unless nearly the entire faculty voted to agree to the two key requests.

Declaring a financial emergency, called exigency, allows the administration more leeway to lay off tenured faculty and axe academic programs.

“We’re standing the line on both of those,” Llorens said again Thursday, before hosting a faculty forum to discuss their concerns.

“I wanted to avoid any type of financial emergency at all costs. It is the last choice. It’s the last resort. But that’s where we stand,” Llorens said at the forum after the Faculty Senate vote.

Llorens said he understands faculty frustrations and joked that he was told he should get a bodyguard on campus.

After the vote, Southern Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi said more cuts can be made in administrative expenses and that the maximum $2.2 million that could be saved through furloughs should not be the dividing line on declaring exigency.

“This administration has not done its homework,” Trivedi said. “That is akin to burning the building for killing a fly.”

Southern faculty have received “voluntary furlough and program discontinuance” agreements to sign. The wording includes furloughs equaling 10 percent of their annual pay for all Southern employees.

A furlough is required time off the job without pay.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty cannot be furloughed unless they voluntarily accept the pay cuts or if financial exigency is approved this week by the Southern Board of Supervisors upon Llorens’ request.

The agreement still allows exigency to be declared.

“It (the agreement) is a backdoor way of having the faculty allow financial exigency,” Southern history professor Eva Baham said.

Llorens said the furloughs would be temporary. Structural changes and program cuts made in the next few months should be long-term. Such fixes would require faculty who are laid off because their academic program was eliminated or consolidated to be out of the job by the end of the school year, he said. That is why the shorter termination notices are needed, he said.

Tenure or tenure-track faculty typically requires at least a one-year termination notice.

For the past two years, Southern staff have been furloughed, which amounted to a 4.6-percent reduction in pay. But the faculty was not included.

Faculty also complained Thursday about the university subsidy that helps the struggling athletic department increase by $625,000 this year, even with student athletic fees increasing this fall.

Llorens said the athletic department must improve and increase its revenues. But he said the extra subsidy is needed for now.

Meanwhile, a former director of information technologies at Southern University has pleaded guilty in federal court to mail fraud that cost the school $157,366.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Walt Green tells The Advocate (http://bit.ly/nBsYrD ) that a second defendant, a tenured mechanical engineering professor, remains a fugitive.

Scott D. Woodall of Denham Springs entered the guilty plea on Thursday.

The fugitive professor is Parviz Sharifrazi. Authorities have not been able to locate him since he and Woodall were indicted in February.

Woodall admitted to U.S. District Judge James J. Brady that he and Sharifrazi set up shell companies to defraud Southern in a scheme that began in early 2008 and continued through December 2009. Brady did not immediately schedule a sentencing hearing.

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