BATON ROUGE, La. – The new president of the Southern University System says he’s moving forward with campus campaigns amid stiff budget reductions.
“We’re going to bring the Southern family back together after a very difficult time,” President Ronald Mason said. “We’re going to turn the ship and get it as seaworthy as possible.”
Mason told The Advocate he will proceed with the ‘S.O.S. Save Our Southern’ awareness campaign and his ‘Project Positive Direction’ plan to streamline and centralize the business operations of Southern’s three academic campuses, law school and agricultural center.
Mason said the goal is to centralize finances, technology infrastructure, internal auditing and more.
Mason said a faculty committee will be formed soon to update and unify the academic curriculums of the campuses, as well as eliminate duplication with a look toward more online degrees.
Meanwhile, Southern Board chairman-elect Darren Mire said he plans to be more aggressive during next year’s legislative session as he promotes the value of Southern’s campuses.
“I’ve formed some pretty good relationships over the years in the Legislature,” Mire said. “I’m going to be a little more hands-on with that. It’s just a crucial time.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal has warned higher education in Louisiana to prepare for budget cuts of up to 32 percent next year. Although, Jindal has also said he doesn’t expect the higher education budgets to be cut that deeply.
Mire said the budget issues are “killing” Southern’s main campus. More academic programs are still at risk next year, he said.
Mason said more tuition and fee increases—without pricing students out—are needed to help offset cuts.
Mason said Southern has less cushion to withstand cuts than other colleges.
“We are all in the same boat,” he said. “But some of us are on different decks and, when the ship’s sinking, the lower deck floods first.”