SU board member quits, changes mind

Southern University’s Board of Supervisors member Calvin Braxton has apparently flip-flopped.

On Wednesday, Braxton sent the Southern Board a poorly worded letter of resignation that read: “Accept my recognition from the Southern University Board of Supervisors.”

Less than a day later, Braxton says he has reconsidered and intends to remain a board member.

Braxton didn’t return four telephone calls seeking comment Thursday. But Board Member Myron Lawson said Braxton told him of the change of mind.

Braxton’s resignation, then change of heart comes just two days after his fellow board members voted against a contract extension for his close friend, Southern University-Baton Rouge Chancellor James Llorens. It was the second time within a 17-day stretch the board voted not to keep Llorens on as chancellor once his contract ends on June 30.

Braxton, the president of Natchitoches Ford and Lincoln, LLC., was one of the chancellor’s fiercest supporters.

During the first vote, on Feb. 7, to offer the chancellor a contract extension, Braxton switched his vote from “no” to “yes” then back to “no.”

It was widely assumed that Braxton was maneuvering to get on the prevailing side of the vote in order to exploit a rule that allows someone on the winning side to bring the matter up again for a second vote.

Three days later, Braxton was one of two Southern board members who attended a student rally on the Baton Rouge campus in support of Llorens.

It was there Braxton promised a crowd of hundreds that he would personally offer a motion at the next Southern board meeting that would give Llorens a new three-year contract.

He broke that promise.

The Southern board met again on Feb. 24, but Braxton was quiet. He did not speak up publicly for Llorens. He left it up to board member Tony Clayton and student board member Simone Bray to make the motions to keep Llorens on as chancellor. Both motions offered were for one-year extensions. The issue of a new, multi-year contract did not come up.

The board voted 8-7 in favor of giving Llorens an extension, but the popular chancellor needed nine votes to make it official.

On Thursday, Braxton told WAFB-TV that the two Llorens votes had nothing to do with him resigning, then changing his mind. He was quoted as saying resignation is something he’d been thinking about for some time. His term expires on Dec. 31, 2016.

Llorens’ job status is largely viewed within the Southern community as a power struggle between a chancellor known for being visible around campus, and Southern System President Ronald Mason, who keeps a lower profile.

Many of Llorens’ supporters say the chancellor inherited a bad situation when he was hired in 2011, and that he’s been slowly changing Southern for the better. They also say that Mason ultimately wants to run the Baton Rouge campus, and has been slowly trying to strip the chancellor of his power.

Mason has repeatedly denied those claims. He maintains, that as system president, he should be able to offer input on certain university operations. The Baton Rouge campus has been on shaky financial footing going back several years.

Mason’s supporters say Llorens has spent too much time trying to be popular, and has been unwilling to make the tough decisions that would benefit the university. They say Southern’s pattern of poor customer service and shoddy record keeping should have been fixed by now.