LSU, Southern University and University of New Orleans faculty members are meeting late this week to map plans for a statewide mobilization effort in defense of state higher education funding.
LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope on Thursday invited a UNO representative to LSU’s Thursday meeting “regarding the overall plight of higher education.” The two of them are meeting today with the Southern Faculty Senate.
Steven Striffler, a UNO Latin American studies professor, said he is sick of hearing that $250 million in statewide budget cuts to colleges the past 14 months are only examples of “belt-tightening or feeling the pinch.”
“The budget cuts have, in a sense, been a call to action,” Striffler said, expressing a desire to further draw together faculty, students and alumni. “This mobilization requires some statewide coordination … and we need to have a rally at the Capitol to support higher education.”
Striffler has thus far formed a “Save UNO” effort of more than 100 people, similar to the “Save LSU” campaign that first organized a faux funeral for the university last month to coincide with LSU beginning its 150th anniversary celebrations.
In Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive budget released Feb. 12, he proposed limiting 2010-2011 fiscal year cuts to higher education to just more than $5 million. But the budget also makes permanent the previous cuts, including $85 million in January.
“Gov. Jindal’s recent decision to sort of spare higher ed is certainly welcome, but not a solution, not even in the short term,” Striffler said.
Southern Faculty Senate President Sudhir Trivedi also has been vocal against budget cuts and allegedly unfair funding balances for historically black colleges.
Jindal’s proposed budget for colleges includes $290 million in federal stimulus dollars, which are slated to run out before the summer of 2011. The state is dealing with a nearly $3 billion shortfall over the next two years because of declining state revenues.
The faculty members have not only opposed the budget axing for colleges, but also the state funding structure that burdens higher education and health care with the most cuts.
They also have targeted the state’s tax structure.
LSU English instructor Tania Nyman, who has organized the “Save LSU” campaign and a petition, last week and this week delivered letters to the governor’s office and legislators.