AAUP investigation results challenged by ULS
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The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has released a report of their findings from an investigation of the University of Louisiana System's (ULS) actions regarding faculty layoffs and loss of tenure, alleging that the ULS violated it's own policies. The report was released Thursday, April 12.
However, the ULS is defending its actions, and points out several inaccuracies within the report on its website. ULS President, Randy Moffet released a statement voicing his concerns of the report's accuracy the same day that it was released.
"Beyond the fact that the AAUP report is deeply flawed, it is apparent that its assessment is structured around the AAUP's principles and not the existing rules and policies under which our universities are required to operate," stated Moffet. "The universities in our system are governed by Louisiana's constitution and laws as well as rules and policies developed by the Board of Supervisors for the ULS."
The report focuses on the actions of two universities, one being Southeastern and the other being Northwestern State University. In the case of Southeastern, the French language and French Education degree programs were terminated, resulting in the dismissal of three tenured professors: Drs. Evelyn Bornier, Margaret Marshall and Katherine Kolb. The three professors were slated for termination when their degree programs were discontinued in June 2010 due to budget constraints. Each was given one year to complete their contracts, which ended on May 16, 2011. However, Kolb retired after receiving the notification that her program had been eliminated.
Kolb recently concluded a five-month stint at Harvard University and is now at home, working on her book. According to Kolb, despite their recent troubles, the three are getting along well.
"Personally all three of us are thriving," said Kolb. "Because we are doing so well, we see this as an injustice, not a tragedy."
Kolb remarked on what the loss of three tenured faculty, as well as two programs, means for the university.
"Southeastern has lost so much," said Kolb. "Not just with the French programs, but its reputation as well. One of the points in the AAUP's report is that morale at that university is at rock bottom; teachers can't get out of there fast enough. What most need to realize is that tenure is more than just job security, it assures the public that they are getting the best education possible; fighting for it isn't selfish."
The three have since filed suit against the university and the ULS on the grounds that their termination violated their rights as faculty and ULS policy. Kolb said the university has stalled the suit a few times, which rendered court fees.
University President John L. Crain also issued a statement on April 12, defending the university's decision to eliminate the programs and faculty.
"Despite assertions to the contrary by the AAUP and others, the candid reality is that Southeastern's former French and French Education programs together averaged only 14.6 majors over the last five years, producing an average 2.2 annual graduates," stated Crain. "This is well below the threshold ultimately established by the Louisiana Board of Regents as acceptable for sustaining academic programs."
Crain also spoke of the financial cuts the university has received over the last few years, which total more than $25 million.
"Although these staggering reductions represent nearly one-third of our state funds, we have remained committed to sustaining our core academic programs," stated Crain. "These financial circumstances forced us to eliminate over 200 faculty and staff positions; yet to date, only three tenured faculty members have lost their positions, following a one year notification period." The Faculty Senate has been monitoring the situation since it began in the summer of 2010, but have yet to take an official position regarding the results of the AAUP's investigation.
According to the Senate's President, Dr. Richard Schwartz of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, the senate will hold a meeting on May 2 to discuss the issue. "We haven't discussed it yet, but it's on the agenda," said Schwartz. The meeting will be held at 3 p.m. in the Alumni Center and is open to the public.
The final report with comments from the ULS can be found at www.ulsystem.edu/AAUP.
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