Mason Raises Stakes in Fight for Southern's Survival

If faculty, alumni and students at Southern University thought the answer to the SU System’s problems was the removal of President Ronald Mason, then those stakeholders now face a multitude of questions about their role in righting the nation’s flagship historically Black system of higher education. Mason recently alerted the SUS Board of Supervisors that he will not seek or accept an extension of his contract, scheduled to end in June 2015, without a commitment to resources and regulatory oversight necessary for the system’s future sustainability, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Apparently, Mason can walk away from the devastating budget cuts, Baton Rouge’s infamous sociopolitical culture, and divided ranks among faculty and alumni. But if he does leave and doesn’t look back, what will be the survival plan for those opponents who stay?
In the last few weeks, Mason has been the target of frequent and pointed criticism from the System’s Faculty Senate, a group which has challenged Mason in public meetings, voted no-confidence in his leadership, and is currently seeking his immediate resignation. Much of its angst stems from Mason’s implementation of online degree programs, and an effort to consolidate the operations of the system and the Baton Rouge campus, a move he has described as necessary for cost-saving and management efficiency.
The Faculty Senate’s crowning manifesto is a response to a Mason proposal asking the system supervisors to define and commit to a singular vision for the system, and to begin plans for how to secure the resources for its development. That document, along with all previous denouncement of Mason’s leadership, have generally been authored by roughly 15 faculty members which now compose its ranks. And according to officers of the senate, only 10 of its members were present for the vote of no-confidence.
You read that right; 10 people out of hundreds of faculty members throughout five campuses collectively put the president of the system on the clock to get the hell out of Baton Rouge.
In response, the founding member of the SU Faculty Senate, Dr. William Moore, recently wrote to board members about his view of the Jaguar Jedi.
The Faculty Senate as a representative group is almost nonexistent. This body is supposed to consist of more than 30 members, but it has disintegrated to 13.  This means that a large segment of the university is not represented.  In addition, there is no avenue for input from the faculty.  The effect is that we have three people claiming to be an executive committee, but when their actions reach the press it leaves the reader with the impression of a faculty vote of no confidence.
I am troubled by this state of affairs because 41 years ago, we devoted an extraordinary amount of energy to create a body that was respected by faculty as well as the administration and Board. The present group is out of control and is potentially hoodwinking the press and public in general.
I am recommending that the Board do some investigating, especially if it is inclined to listen to this group.
Sincerely, William E. Moore Founding Faculty Senate President Retired Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
While the Faculty Senate’s response is long on complaints, criticism and putdowns, it falls well-short on proposed solutions or alternatives to current recommendations by the SUS administration. Among its discernible solutions:

  • The System and the System President’s role should be narrowed to three (3) primary functions: (a) to raise money and promoting public good will for the member institutions within the System, (b) coordinate a legislative strategy for the system, and (c) to evaluate the performance of the chancellors and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. Limiting the System to these tasks will eliminate their tendency to unnecessarily duplicate the functions of the campus administrations…
  • The faculty, staff, alumni, and community stakeholders must hold the campus administration accountable for the fiscal and academic well-being of SUBR.

Clearly, the Faculty Senate demands financial and managerial autonomy for each of the system’s institutional members. In utopian circumstances, this would be the solution for all Black colleges, and especially for the world’s only historically Black system.
But in a state where the system is under daily covert and apparent attack from legislative enemies as high as the governor himself, is there any real benefit in each campus having the singular opportunity to make and break its own finances? To help or hurt its own political currency? To advocate for its own right to expand and create for Black students and the state of Louisiana?
And how has the Baton Rouge campus fared without the dual role of the president-chancellor? Financial exigency, two board votes to remove James Llorens, and enrollment dips and recoveries would suggest that its recent years of leadership independence haven’t been its best.
For all of the opposition to Mason and his leadership, it seems to be lost on the agitating groups that he remains as president by the will of the Board of Supervisors. He remains as its primary voice, fundraiser, policy advisor and political liaison between the campuses and the statehouse. If Mason was as bad as so many have made him out to be, then how does a board with all of the data, dollars and details on Southern’s struggles, miss what those without the numbers seem to firmly grasp?
In an era where HBCU presidents are fired or resigning seemingly every three months, what has made Mason bulletproof in Baton Rouge? And if he is, why has the board escaped public criticism for the system’s struggles and retention of the man allegedly responsible for Southern’s downfall? Opponents can’t have it both ways; they can’t hold Mason singularly responsible for Southern’s woes and let the Board, a group that has long maintained a peculiar relationship with terms like ‘conflict of interest’ and ‘integrity,’ off the hook.
Everybody seems to be in a holding pattern for what Southern’s next steps will be, but what happens when the one person who has moved in every which direction for Southern’s success, readies his next move to be an exit plan?

9 thoughts on “Mason Raises Stakes in Fight for Southern's Survival

  1. This article is the most bias article I have ever witnessed reading on this site. It ignores thousands of alumni who want him removed now let alone wait till his contract ends. I am truly shocked as an alum that this publication would appear so one sided. This is written in such a bias manner till it almost seem like Mason practically sat down and gave you his whole spill. Either way since you seem to believe in him you will be able to post his resume on her because we want him GONE!

    1. Yeah we want him gone and people forget he got ran out of JSU before he came to Southern. They told him to pack his bags because he was trying to merge JSU Alcorn and MVSU. Hmm sounds like he is trying to do the same thing with the SUS. I Tiger does not change his stripes just because he is in a different zoo.

  2. I say don’t stop with Mason the whole board has been dormint for the last 10+ years. The President of the Board and the Board members are suppose do be the biggest fundraisers for an institution of higher learning. Mason and the board members have raised no money and keep crying broke when every year the state keeps cutting the budget. Really! Go out raise some money and quite being the hoe of the Governor and allowing the State to keep taking money from the public HBCU’s in the state. (Grambling included) Sue the state for funding discrimination and stop bending over to whatever the Governor wants. Well you all are appointed by the Governor so that is another problem.

  3. Interesting perspective. Mason seems to have drawn the line in the sand. Southern’s faculty Senate seems to be “off the chair”, and NOT in a good way.

    1. Also, what this article fails to understand is that Mason has people on the board that were placed their for his benefit and would never vote him off, the author of this article feels that the board is just a random group of whole hearted Southern enthusiast that feel the same as the faculty, staff and students. Which is wrong, the board seemingly has two sides those for Mason and those against (and maybe 2 who are in the middle). The board can see his failures but have political and personal ties to him or others which ‘illegally holds’ them to not vote him out.

  4. I had hoped that when you requested information from us (the Faculty Senate) that your intention was to write a balanced article. I was disappointed (but considering our telephone conversation, not surprised). You have misrepresented and trivialized the principles which led the Faculty Senate to issue a vote of no confidence in Mason’s leadership and call for his ouster. Secondly, you have supposed (falsely) that you (an outsider from a lofty perch who don’t know what the hell you’re talking about) can discern the problems that ail the university without actually talking widely with people on the ground with the facts and the experience to put the situation in context. You accept uncritically Mason’s version of events and dismiss our critique that Southern most fundamentally has an enrollment problem and consolidating the system administration with the campus administration does nothing to solve it. You further confirm your bias when, after having in hand Mason’s woefully deficient 19 page Power Point presentation masquerading as a “strategic approach,” you still repeat the unsubstantiated and unfounded assertion that it will save money (By the way, LSU [whom Mason references as the model for consolidation] by their own admission saved no money from their consolidation of the System and campus administration, yet you slavishly repeat Mason’s claim that consolidating the System and campus administrations could save millions.) Perhaps most offensive of all is your implication that the Faculty Senate is not representative of the faculty. You quote Dr. William Moore (who also doesn’t know what he’s talking about) who claims (falsely) that the Faculty Senate “should have over 30 members, but has dwindled down to 13.” Dr. Moore apparently hasn’t read the Senate’s Constitution in years: the document says that each college is allotted one senator for every 20 faculty members. The faculty of today at Southern is much smaller than it was in his heyday. We have only roughly about 250 faculty members today (when adjuncts are included), we have lost 150-200 faculty members minimum just since 2008. The Faculty Senate’s size would have no choice but to shrink as the overall size of our faculty has declined. Moreover, 70% of the faculty voted in the last election – and the candidates that were clearly aligned with Mason were soundly defeated at the polls. If the Faculty Senate doesn’t represent the faculty, who does? To excoriate the Faculty Senate by claiming that only 10 people voted for the resolution is like saying that an act of Congress is invalid because only 535 people voted on in it in a country of 300 million people. The Faculty Senate is an instrument of REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY, Mr. Carter! You have discredited your publication by your ill-informed,biased reporting and regrettably, you have forced me to take HBCU Digest as a whole less seriously.

    1. And furthermore, to paraphrase Jarrett Carter, Sr.: “You can’t have it both ways.” You can’t criticize the Faculty Senate as “unrepresentative” because 10 people voted on the resolution of no confidence, but then quote ONE SOURCE (Dr. Moore) as authoritative when your purpose is to diminish or belittle the Faculty Senate. And the Faculty Senate (as well as faculty, alumni, students, etc.) HAVE NOT AND DO NOT exonerate the Board for its actions(or inactions, both over the years and now in the present). But for now, the Board represents the system that we have – changing it requires amending the state’s constitution. And if you’re going to change it, you’d better have something in mind that’s better than what we have (Mr. Wise Guy, you seem to have all the answers – I don’t see you proposing any solutions to our problems other than trust someone {Mason] who has shown he can’t be trusted. Did you even bother to inquire as to the circumstances surrounding Mason’s departure from Jackson State in 2010 (when he proposed merging the black HBCUs into one university) and then you seriously maintain that he is a champion that we should be rallying around instead of fighting against? I repeat: YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.

  5. That’s just great… Mason champions Chancellor Lorenz departure and now he wants to bail on SU. I guess since Mason was unable to convince the board to allow him to have the role of System President and SUBR Chancellor, that he now waves his white flag. Honestly, the board members themselves need to be replaced and there should also be limits on the amount of time they serve. Seems like Joe Gant has served for more than 2 decades arleady.

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