The nation’s top university professors organization has launched an investigation into alleged mistreatment of faculty in the eight-college University of Louisiana System.
The new American Association of University Professors announcement particularly noted issues at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond — concerning the termination of three tenured French professors — and at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.
The new investigation comes on the heels of an American Association of University Professors report in August that was highly critical of LSU’s alleged actions against two professors in separate incidents.
Also, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the American Association of University Professors censured several Louisiana universities for allegedly targeting some faculty, among other issues.
Nicholls State University, which is in the UL System, is on American Association of University Professors censure.
The censure status is generally seen as a black eye against a school that hampers faculty recruitment and retention.
“Louisiana is only one of 50 states and not one of the biggest, but we’re getting far more work from the state of Louisiana than we ought to be getting,” said Jordan Kurland, American Association of University Professors associate general secretary.
“It’s approaching the ridiculous,” Kurland said Tuesday.
The Northwestern part of the investigation will look at faculty layoffs from the perspective of the university terminating close to 20 academic programs, Kurland said, far more than any other UL System school.
The Southeastern issues are specific to the university terminating three tenured faculty when it axed its bachelor’s degree program in French, Kurland said, even though the university continues to teach many French courses.
Those three faculty members filed suit in May, arguing the tenure rules were violated because the French program still exists as a minor and classes are still taught. Two were offered lower-paying, less-protected instructor jobs.
“As far as we know, there’s an abundance of lower-level French language teaching still going on there — more than enough to keep the three French tenured professors busy,” Kurland said.
Another concern is that the quality of a student’s education suffers when instructors continually replace more experienced and educated tenured faculty, he said.
Earlier this year, the UL System adjusted its tenure policy and termination policies to make it easier to more quickly lay off faculty when academic programs are axed.
Southeastern Louisiana President John Crain sent out a statement noting that university administrators will be constrained from participating in the American Association of University Professors review process because of the pending litigation.
Crain blamed ongoing state budget cuts to higher education for the “many difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions.”
“As I have maintained in the beginning of the budget crisis, in order to continue our ability to offer outstanding opportunities to our students in the current difficult financial environment, we must prioritize the utilization of our limited resources,” Crain stated.
UL System President Randy Moffett said in a written response that the AAUP concerns are based on some “misinformed assumptions,” especially because the adjusted UL System policies came after the Southeastern and Northwestern terminations.
“While it is unfortunate that our financial difficulties have resulted in some faculty terminations, at the same time we are relieved that we have not had to engage in even more drastic reductions,” Moffett wrote.
Earlier this year, the American Association of University Professors was critical of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for terminating tenured cognitive science professors and of the University of Louisiana at Monroe for allegedly threatening to lay off chemistry professors.
Kurland offered some praise to those two schools Tuesday.
Kurland said UL-Lafayette followed the appropriate notification rules and is working to help the impacted faculty members.
UL-Monroe opted against firing any tenured faculty, he said.
“We’re interested in seeing how it was avoided there,” Kurland said.