Louisiana State Conference
American Association of University Professors
Minutes of Annual Meeting
April, 4, 2009
The meeting was called to order by President Alvin Burstein at 10:10 AM. The President then introduced Dr. Robert Kreiser, Associate Secretary of AAUP, who presented his scheduled talk, "Whatever Happened to Shared Governance? Academic Freedom and The Faculty's Role in Planning Change."
A question and discussion period followed Dr. Kreiser's talk. Among the points emphasized in the talk and ensuing discussion were the importance of having appropriate procedures for responding to financial exigency in place before the fact, as well as alertness to the possibility that some administrations seek to avoid agreed-upon procedures, even when they are embodied in a Faculty Handbook (or its equivalent), by citing new "exigencies." "Force Majeur exigency" declarations in the post-Katrina period was one example of such avoidance; another more recent one is "enrollment exigency."
Mention was also made of the excellent work of the LSU Chapter in publishing a carefully reasoned and principled letter about how the campus should proceed in the face of any financial exigency, describing in detail the optimal faculty role in decisions. A key point was that furloughs, layoffs, salary reductions or the like must not be unilaterally imposed by the administration but be arrived at through shared governance. A carefully considered list of possible strategies for dealing with exigent circumstances was also set forth in the chapter's letter.
Following Dr. Kreiser's talk, the Conference considered a proposal by the Tulane Chapter that, in the light of the progress made by the university in rectifying the shortcomings that led to post-Katrina censure, the Conference endorse a request by the Tulane Chapter that Committee A recommend lifting of censure. Lengthy discussion ensued, focused largely on the case of two tenured faculty members, not members of the Association, whose terminations had not been resolved to their satisfaction.
After the discussion, the Conference passed the following motion:
The Conference notes with approval the commendable progress toward meriting removal of AAUP censure made by Tulane University. It urges continued attention to any remaining cases of faculty terminated in ways inconsistent with AAUP policy.
There followed a report by the President-elect of the Loyola University Chapter, Connie Rodriguez. Loyola, also censured post-Katrina, has made no significant progress toward removal of censure. The President-elect reported on the status of a number of suits filed by colleagues, and reported retaliatory harassment.
Of the two University of New Orleans faculty members who had been furloughed post-Katrina and not been re-instated or employed elsewhere, one has just recently been reinstated. The reinstated professor, Dr. Denise Strong, reported on that outcome to the conference; she also argued strongly for never removing censure before resolution of all cases of displaced faculty. She read a statement from her colleague, Wendy Hajjar, who remains on furlough, thanking AAUP for its support and asking for it to continue. At Wendy Hajjar's request her letter will be posted to the Conference website.
Dr. Burstein reported on several campuses where serious problems appear to be unfolding: Nicholls University, where a long standing non-tenure-track faculty member was dismissed in circumstances that appear to be related to administrative pressure to improve graduation rates by lowering standards, and where another faculty member is complaining of retaliation following her report of inappropriate use of university resources; Southern University, Baton Rouge, where a Department Chair was unilaterally dismissed as Chair and moved to another Department following his report to a university committee of plagiarism of a grant proposal and misuse of grant funds. He is currently attempting to bring the complaint to his Board of Supervisors.
Lunch was then served.
Following the lunch, the Conference awarded the first J. Thomas Hamrick Award for Exemplary Contributions on Behalf of Academic Freedom to Professor Hamrick, who died last year. A plaque symbolizing the award was presented by Dr. Kreiser. The award was accepted on behalf of Professor Hamrick by his wife, Nina Hamrick, and his son, Thomas Hamrick.
The meeting adjourned at 2 P.M.