BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — An outcry from students, faculty and alumni wasn't enough to persuade the Southern University System governing board to reverse course Monday and keep James Llorens as chancellor of the main campus.
Llorens, who has led the Baton Rouge campus for three years, fell one vote short of what was needed from the Board of Supervisors to extend his contract.
The vote was 8-7 for a one-year extension, with one board member absent. It needed nine votes to pass.
Earlier this month, board members refused to renew Llorens' contract. Students protested the decision, and members of the faculty, staff and alumni blasted board members for the rejection. A special board meeting was called to reconsider.
But after three hours of closed-door negotiating Monday, the outcome was the same, with Llorens' contract ending June 30. After the vote, the chancellor said his time at the helm of the campus appeared to be over.
"I don't anticipate the board taking this matter up again," Llorens said.
He was named chancellor in May 2011, leading the largest of the five campuses in the Southern University System, the nation's only historically black university system.
The initial dispute over the contract extension involved Southern System President Ronald Mason proposing that Llorens keep his job for an additional year, but with management restrictions that involved devising a plan with Mason to make organizational and financial changes on campus. Llorens didn't agree to those terms.
By Monday, Llorens had changed his position, saying he would work with Mason on the changes, but his reversal wasn't enough to get the votes needed to renew his contract for another 12 months.
Board members have offered little explanation publicly for their votes. Board chair Bridget Dinvaut, who voted against extending Llorens' contract, refused to explain her decision Monday.
Leaders of student, faculty, staff and alumni organizations packed the hearing room in Baton Rouge for the reconsideration of Llorens' contract extension. More than a dozen people spoke in support of the renewal. Only one person asked the board to sever ties with the chancellor.
Llorens' supporters said he shepherded the university through difficult budget cuts and the declaration of a financial emergency, leading a campus-wide reorganization and increasing enrollment.
"Now is not the time to change leadership," said Albert Samuels, a political science professor and president of the Southern University Federation of Teachers.
Anna Jones, chair of the board for the Southern University System Foundation, said ousting the chancellor would jeopardize the university's stability.
"We trust some of you board members, some of you. We respect the president. We respect him because it's the authority of the position. We love that man right there," Jerry W. Jones Jr., a Southern graduate who drove from Lake Charles, said, pointing to Llorens.
Jones added, "There's a lot of chancellors that should have been fired a long time ago. This one here needs to stay."
Several Llorens supporters suggested Mason was trying to micromanage the Baton Rouge campus, an allegation the system president has repeatedly denied.
Mason said he expects the board's personnel committee to do a national search for Llorens' replacement.
"Part of my job now — and the chancellor's too — is making sure that everybody keeps their eye on what's best for Southern," he said.