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A Sign of Peace at Southern University

The faculty senate president at Southern University’s Baton Rouge campus says his organization “accepted an olive branch” from top administration officials after months of conflict over budget cuts and fiscal priorities.

“For now, we have suspended our campaign against the Southern University System and the board of supervisors,” Dr. Sudhir Trivedi wrote in an e-mail to faculty this week. He added that he had “accepted an olive branch” offered by Southern System President Ronald Mason and board President Tony Clayton after he and senate Vice President Tom Miller aired a number of grievances to a committee of the state Legislature on Oct. 22.

“President Ronald Mason walked towards us, shook hand[s], and asked if we could leave the past behind and work together for the good of the institution,” Trivedi wrote in the e-mail.

“I didn’t know there was a campaign, but given the circumstances, working together is the only option for Southern,” Mason told Diverse.  “It is a positive development.”

Trivedi told Diverse he was heartened by the announcement from Southern-Baton Rouge Chancellor Kofi Lomotey that beginning in January, about two dozen faculty would begin receiving pay increases. These are faculty who were promoted during the past two years but who had not received adjustments to their pay to go along with the promotions.

“This is a positive and very welcome step,” Trivedi said.

However, he added, “The salary issue is only a side issue. There is still more to be done.”

In an Oct. 4 Diverse article, Trivedi took aim at the chancellor and system administrators for the appointment of Dr. Lisa Delpit to a new position in the SUBR Department of Education.

Her $120,000 salary is double what the average full SU professor earns, according to Trivedi.

Trivedi, on behalf of the faculty senate, used the appointment to question the administrators’ priorities — including their delaying the long-awaited pay increases for promoted faculty, deferring needed repairs on various buildings and laying off staff in certain departments.

However, now Trivedi says he is no longer fighting Delpit’s appointment, noting that it is a one-year position unless funds are raised for an endowment — which was Lomotey’s original plan but the position remains unfunded.

“There is no point in spending time on one position when there are so many other issues,” Trivedi said.

“We have serious concerns of equity, transparency, and fairness,” he added. “As we move forward, we would like to see these concerns addressed by the administration and the Board and implemented in the academic and governing processes of the institution and the system.”

Trivedi and other faculty said they respected the renowned educator’s work but that her hiring was “emblematic” of their overall concerns.

Lomotey and Clayton declined to comment.

The Southern University and Louisiana State University systems are struggling with state-ordered cutbacks and have been forced to make significant reductions in their budgets.

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