Statement of the AAUP Louisiana Conference to the AAUP Special Committee of Inquiry
August 29, 2006
It is the sense of the Conference that there has been a continuing erosion of the principles of shared governance and academic freedom in the state-wide public and private academic community that has sharply accelerated in the post-Katrina period. This erosion threatens to compromise severely the ability of the state to maintain the faculty infrastructure crucial to the cultural and economic well-being of the state as well as to degrade the system of academic tenure, the underpinning of academic freedom .
This erosion manifests itself in a variety of ways:
In response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the state systems of higher education invented a status of "force majeure financial exigency" without meaningful faculty participation and without criteria or procedures for terminating this status. They then used the claimed exigency as a justification for institutional and personnel restructuring that avoided meaningful involvement of the faculty.
Even prior to the invention of this status, the financial exigency guidelines of the LSU Board of Supervisors, as well as financial exigency plans promulgated by many other New Orleans universities, were inconsistent with AAUP recommendations on financial exigency.
Both state and private institutions bypassed meaningful use of faculty senates in formulating policy and plans, often substituting informal consultation or "cherry-picked" faculty representation on committees dominated by administrators and staff.
In the post-Katrina period, in both state and private institutions, administrators terminated or furloughed tenured faculty citing only non-specific grounds, thus making a mockery of any appeal process. The appeal processes afforded by the institutions were not always adhered to. Further, the same persons making the original decisions often played a central role in the appeal.
In state institutions, administrators insisted that any probationary employee, including tenure-track faculty, may be given a notice of non-renewal without a stated reason and without peer review.
Administrators at both state and private institutions displayed a reluctance or refusal to reconsider plans that were made immediately after the storms despite better-than-feared financial conditions and reasoned faculty objections.
General statements made by administrators about adhering to AAUP standards or rehiring faculty members where feasible were honored more in the breach than the observance.