The Louisiana State Conference of the AAUP held its annual meeting on Saturday, April 17, 2010 on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. The Conference expresses its gratitude to the SLU chapter for hosting the meeting, including arranging an excellent luncheon. Approximately thirty members attended, representing at least seven institutions.
President Al Burstein opened the meeting by calling for reports from the institutions represented.
Prof. Brooks Ellwood, president of the Louisiana State University chapter, reported on the two most important cases there, that of Prof. Ivor van Heerden, whose contract was not renewed by the university subsequent to Prof. van Heerden's critique of the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the failure of flood-protection structures in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and who holds that he has de facto tenure and should be reinstated. His case is currently being considered by the national office as potentially reason for an investigation. To Prof. van Heerden's case has been added that of Prof. Dominique Homberger, whose test grades were changed and who was subsequently removed as the instructor of a course because the administration believed that the grades were too low. The chapter has requested that the national office include Dr. Homberger's complaint in their consideration of an investigation, which the chapter supports. A motion was made, seconded, and passed unanimously that the Conference supports the position of the chapter.
Prof. Connie Rodriguez, president of the Loyola University chapter, reported that she has been permitted to return to campus after having been suspended last year. However, she also reported that another faculty member has been put on "paid medical leave" by the administration, apparently without having requested it. While the university's president has told the University Senate that he is working with the AAUP to lift censure, the national office reports only very limited contact from him and no developments. It has been reported that two articles written by a student reporter on the post-Katrina situation and AAUP censure have failed to appear in the campus newspaper. Some of the legal cases of terminated faculty members have been settled, while others continue to work their way through the courts. In two noteworthy summary judgments, the judge has held that plaintiffs may sue for non-pecuniary damages (e.g. loss of reputation, emotional distress) and that the university president and provost may be sued personally. Finally, in their appeal to the Board shortly after Katrina to reject the plan for faculty terminations, the faculty predicted that the plan would have a negative effect on both the number and the quality of student applications, a prediction that appears to be coming true in the lower number of applicants and the full quarter of the incoming class receiving conditional admission.
Prof. Linda Carroll, president of the Tulane University chapter, reported that censure was lifted from Tulane by the national association in November subsequent to the delegation in June by the body of the annual meeting of its authority over the matter to Committee A. The reasons include the conclusion of individual faculty cases and the insertion into the Faculty Handbook of a new set of procedures for handling the declaration of financial exigency and the designation of faculty to be discontinued that comports with Association standards. Prof. Carroll reported that while the relations between the faculty and the administration have improved, there is room for further improvement and that there have been some specific cases of the administration's treatment of faculty members that have raised concerns of due process and of the administration's respect for the faculty role in shared governance.
Prof. Joe Mirando, president of the Southeastern Louisiana University at Hammond, was unable to attend but sent a report that was summarized by chapter Vice-President Katharine Kolb. Current faculty concerns center on the future of budget cuts, specifically the efforts by the administration to declare 'financial exigency' in programs rather than the entire university and the question of what role the faculty body will have in making decisions over budgetary matters as they affect academic programs and faculty members.
Prof. Istvan Berkeley, president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette chapter, was also unable to attend but sent a report. The hard work of Prof. Berkeley and his colleagues together with the presence at ULL of a provost, Dr. Joseph Savoie, who is supportive of the AAUP (he has twice received the Conference's Henry L. Mason Award, bestowed upon administrators for their support of academic freedom and shared governance), have resulted in impressive gains in membership. In recognition of this achievement, the Conference awarded Prof. Berkeley with the J. Thomas Hamrick Award for contributions to academic freedom. The award was accompanied by a check for $250 for the chapter.
While there is currently no chapter at the University of New Orleans, it was reported by a member that her faculty case remains from the post-Katrina decisions, and that she listed on the university website as on "Leave of Absence" despite the fact that the leave was imposed by the administration rather than requested by the faculty member as specified in the Faculty Handbook.
A report on the membership at Xavier University, which does not have a formal chapter, was given by Nicole Greene, who states that the members are very active and working on common issues with librarians.
Prof. Paul Bell, the Conference treasurer, submitted his report and requested authorization to put non-checking funds into long-term certificates of deposit of different maturation periods. A motion was made, seconded, and passed unanimously authorizing him to do so. Prof. Bell and others noted that the Conference should not have such a large amount of unexpended funds and discussed the difficulty of finding projects toward which to disburse them. The Conference has solicited proposals from chapters without a great response. In the course of discussion the idea arose that the Conference, like the national association, could dedicate some of its funds to creating a legal fund to assist members in the numerous cases in which legal assistance is vital. A motion was made, seconded, and passed unanimously to authorize the executive committee to do so, with the provision that prudence be used so that funds not be expended too rapidly.
The slate of candidates for the coming two-year term that was recommended by the nominating committee of Profs. Kathy Kolb of Southeastern Louisiana University (chair), Charles Delzell of Louisiana State University, and Istvan Berkeley of University of Louisiana at Lafayette consisting of Bill Stewart, President (Southern University, New Orleans); Michael Fontenot, Vice-President (Southern University, Baton Rouge); Clayton Culver, Secretary (Southeastern Louisiana University); Paul Bell, Treasurer;
Russell Dawkins, At Large (Southern University, Baton Rouge); Alvin Burstein, Past President (Southeastern Louisiana University); Ravi Rau (Louisiana State University), Nicole Greene (Xavier University), Co-Chairs, Chapter Services. Prof. Delzell thanked the outgoing members of the executive committee for their service.
The meeting concluded with a motion to adjourn at 1:00 p.m.