Fired French faculty fight for reinstatement
Backed by the Faculty
Former French language professors Drs. Margaret Marshall, Evelyn Bornier and Katherine Kolb have gained the support of Southeastern's Faculty Senate in their effort to be reinstated as tenured professors.
The senate was called into a special session on May 12 to specifically discuss resolution 10-11-10. Drafted by the senate's executive committee, the resolution ‘strongly recommended' Southeastern's administration reinstate the three former professors with tenure, previous rank, and salary. The resolution also requested that "future decisions regarding termination of tenured faculty follow board policy and the spirit of tenure."
The three filed suit against the university's administration and the University of Louisiana System (ULS) in an effort to regain their former positions. The suit was filed on May 11 with the Avant & Falcon law firm in Baton Rouge. The date of the trial is yet to be determined. According to the three, several corners were cut in the process of ‘reducing" the university's French degree programs and the termination of tenured faculty.
"There's ambiguity with the phrase ‘doing away with the French programs.'" said Kolb. "That's what the administration said they were doing, but in fact they are not. They're reducing it."
Kolb explained that a institution cannot terminate or reduce a program without full consultation ahead of time with students, faculty and the department head. According to Kolb, Marshall and Bornier, no such consultation occurred. Kolb said that she was never officially notified. Instead she found out by chance when she walked into the foreign language office (now the office of languages and communication) and saw her department head, Lucia Harrison, with tears in her eyes.
According to Kolb, Marshall and Bornier, the administration also neglected other concessions to the professors and the French program.
"We were supposed to be given a chance to defend our program and we weren't given that opportunity," said Marshall. "Tenured faculty are meant to be protected. Instead, the instructors and other non-tenured faculty kept their jobs and they fired the tenured professors. Also, the administration was supposed to offer us tenured positions. They didn't."
According to Kolb, the three professors were slated for termination when the French language and education degree programs were discontinued in June 2010 due to campus budget concerns. Each was given one year of notification time to complete their contracts, which ended on May 16, 2011. Kolb retired soon after receiving the news of the program's termination, looking to end her career on a high note.
"At the end of it all, I was a full professor, an endowed professor, I had just received the president's award for research and I just got a sabbatical to work on my book," said Kolb. "I didn't like the idea of having one year to finish my career and I didn't want to be fired, so I retired."
Both Bornier and Marshall were offered instructorships in order of seniority. Marshall declined the offer and Bornier took the position after 14 unsuccessful interviews with universities around the country, who simply could not afford a faculty member with her qualifications. After she accepted the position, Bornier suffered a significant pay cut and no longer has the benefits and rights of a tenured professor, which took her six years to achieve.
"It's insulting," Bornier said about her new position. "I have given my students everything. I have been published extensively in the United States and abroad. I helped put SLU on the map through my publications and my name and this is how the Southeastern ‘Family' repays me?"
When contacted by the Lion's Roar, both university and ULS officials have declined to comment due to the issue being in litigation.
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