The AAUP announced that an investigating committee will visit the University of Louisiana System November 12-15 to look into discontinuance of academic programs within the System, including UL, and the resulting potential termination of tenured appointments.

Follows are two letters, one announcing the November visit, and a letter from last Summer laying out specific complaints against SLU and ULM.

American Association of University Professors
Academic Freedom for a Free Society

Dr. Randy Moffett
President, University of Louisiana System
1201 North Third Street Suite 7-300
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802

Dear President Moffett:

As you know, for over a year our Association has periodically conveyed its concern over successive changes in the policies of the University of Louisiana System's Board of Supervisors regarding the discontinuance of academic programs and the resulting potential termination of tenured faculty appointments.

By letter of March 4, 2011, we informed the Board and your office of the enhancement of the Association's concern upon learning of over a hundred programs in the system slated for discontinuance and policy changes that would allow termination of full-time faculty appointments with as little as one month of notice. In April we wrote to the president of Southeastern Louisiana University about a variety of issues raised in terminating the appointments of the three tenured French professors, and in June we sent you and the presidents of the system's eight institutions a statement from the chair of our Subcommittee on Program Closings on what had happened at Southeastern and what was contemplated with respect to tenured chemistry professors at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Over this past summer, we heard from numerous faculty members at other system institutions, and our inquiries regarding developments at these institutions proceeded apace. We have learned that the majority of the eight institutions that went through the required program reviews, including Monroe, did so without having to lay off tenured professors. At another of the institutions, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, two tenured professors were notified of their layoff effective in 2013, but the status of the two is currently under discussion with the anticipation of promptly reaching a mutually acceptable resolution.

Two of the system's institutions, however, have not succeeded in avoiding the termination of tenure commitments, present us with numerous issues, and appear to have no resolution in sight: Southeastern Louisiana and Northwestern State University, where nearly a dozen adversely affected professors have sought the Association's assistance. A formal Association investigation has accordingly been authorized. The investigating committee intends to look into examples of avoiding layoffs, but the focus will be on issues of tenure rights, due process, and faculty prerogatives at the two institutions where notices of layoffs arc already effective and no prompt remedy is apparent.
The ad hoc investigating committee consists of Professor Rebecca J. Williams (English, University of Central Arkansas). chair, Linda L. Carroll (Italian, Tulane University), and Tammy Greer (Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi). The committee is arranging for Louisiana site visits in November. It plans to be in Baton Rouge from November 12 through 15 and would welcome meeting with you, and with other members of the system administration whom we invite you to recommend, on Monday, November 14, or Tuesday, November 15. The committee contemplates discussing its concerns relating to specific cases with administrative officers and faculty members at the particular institutions, and it sees meeting with you and your colleagues in the central administration as an opportunity to gain understanding of your position on the effectiveness and ramifications of program closings as called for in the system's policies in a time of continuing financial constraints. We shall be in touch with you about specific arrangements for meetings as the time approaches.

Sincerely,
Jordan E. Kurland
Associate General Secretary

cc:   President Frank Pogue, Grambling State University
       President Dan Reneau, Louisiana Tech University
       President Philip C. Williams, McNeese State University
       President Stephen T. Hulbert, Nicholls State University
       President Randall J. Webb, Northwestern State University of Louisiana
       President John Crain, Southeastern Louisiana University
       President E. Joseph Savoie, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
       President Nick J. Bruno, University of Louisiana at Monroe
       President Alvin Burstein, Louisiana Conference AAUP Ad hoc Investigating Committee

The earlier letter from the AAUP lays out more specific complaints:

June 6, 2011
AAUP PRINCIPLES CHALLENGED IN UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA SYSTEM
The Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure encourages the distribution of the following statement by the chair of its Subcommittee on Program Closings. The statement is not a determination of fact by the Association or the result of a Committee A investigation. As such, it should not be understood to predetermine, or to have any other dispositive effect on any future investigations or actions to be undertaken by Committee A or by the Association as a whole.

As chair of the Committee A Subcommittee on Program Closings, I am deeply disturbed by reports that the University of Louisiana System has embarked on what appears to be an unprecedented and unwarranted assault on its faculty. In 2010, Southeastern Louisiana University discontinued its undergraduate major in French, dismissing its three tenured professors with a year’s notice. This alone would draw the attention of the subcommittee, insofar as no reason was given for the decision, and the French program was not underenrolled in comparison to majors such as Spanish; but we are especially alarmed by SLU’s subsequent action, in which the administration proceeded to offer a temporary instructorship to one of the tenured professors it had just fired.

This year, the AAUP has learned that the University of Louisiana at Monroe is planning to do the same, or slightly worse, to its four tenured professors of Chemistry: dismiss them with six months’ notice, then offer to re-hire them at the rank of instructor without tenure. We believe we do not have to wait to hear a third report from the UL system before concluding that we see an emerging pattern.

Both the SLU French department and the ULM Chemistry department perform vital services for their institutions; SLU is located in a parish and a state that is officially English-French bilingual, and ULM is known particularly for its pharmacy and health-care programs. Both programs have sufficient enrollment to justify the size of their faculty, as evidenced by the fact that they are able to rehire their fired professors in order to teach scheduled classes: SLU, for example, is offering twelve French courses next fall. It is simply refusing to staff them with its own tenured professors.

These practices violate so many AAUP principles that it is hard to know where to begin. But we should probably start by remarking that if senior professors with tenure can be fired and then immediately offered employment as short-term instructors, then tenure is essentially meaningless in the University of Louisiana System. There is no evidence that these decisions at SLU and ULM involved faculty consultation, or that they “reflect long-range judgments that the educational mission of the institution as a whole will be enhanced by the discontinuance,” in violation of Recommended Institutional Regulation 4d (1) on program closure absent a declaration of financial exigency. There was no attempt to place the faculty members “in another suitable position,” as required by RIR 4d (2); we do not regard a position as “suitable” when it involves the loss of tenure and a 50 percent cut in pay, as would be the case for one of the SLU French professors (a person only three years from retirement). Finally, we note that throughout the UL System, non-tenure-track faculty can be released on thirty days’ notice regardless of their length of service to their institutions– a policy that violates RIR 13 on the nonrenewal of contingent faculty.

The Committee A subcommittee acknowledges that many institutions are facing financial hardship, and will have to make difficult and painful decisions. The University of Louisiana System, however, appears to be going well beyond anything that can be justified by economic hardship, launching a capricious assault on tenure as well as minimal standards of job security for the untenured. Faculty nationwide should be advised that the UL System has effectively nullified its tenure procedures; and students in the UL System, and their parents, should be advised that maintaining the quality of core liberal arts programs is no longer a priority of the UL System administration.

Michael F. Bérubé
Chair, Subcommittee on Program Closures
Committee A
American Association of University Professors


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