Southern University alumnus and board member Tony Clayton presented a $1.1 million gift to the system last week, ahead of the school’s annual appearance in the Bayou Classic.
The gift will support development of a new ‘Championship Plaza’ adjacent to Southern’s A.W. Mumford Field House, which officials say will play a major role in recruiting and donor cultivation.
“The Clayton Championship Plaza gives us something to be proud about. This permanent legacy separates us and puts on another level of greatness. We appreciate it very much,” said director of Athletics Roman Banks.
The long-serving board member, attorney and real estate developer made headlines in March after serving as lead attorney in a workplace injury case which netted a $37.1 million award. No stranger to headlines, Clayton has also been viewed as a divisive figure within the Southern community. In August, Clayton motioned for a delay in the dismissal of former SU vice-president Brandon Dumas who faced allegations of sexual contact with a former student and improprieties in his role with a civic board.
In 2013, Clayton suggested that Grambling be replaced as Southern’s opponent in the Bayou Classic, just a year after proposing a merger of Grambling State University into the Southern University System as a cost-saving initiative,
In 2011, he stood with former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal during a press conference announcing plans to merge Southern University at New Orleans with nearby, predominantly white University of New Orleans, a plan that died four months later in the Louisiana legislature.
The system announced no timetable for the development of the plaza, which is announced just one year after the school was highlighted by the state’s legislative auditor for hazardous conditions and repeated code violations in academic and residential facilities dating back several years and contributing to more than $111 million in deferred campus maintenance.
Audit: Southern University’s campus has ‘potentially hazardous conditions’ due to lacking maintenance
Southern University’s leaky roofs, moldy walls, sewage backups and broken smoke detectors and sprinkler systems plague many of the buildings that thousands of students and faculty inhabit every day. Many of the deficiencies were documented years ago by state agencies, safety officials and even a student who sued the school in federal court, but the vast majority of problems continue to go unresolved.