LSU Faculty Senate takes on firing of tenured professor - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

LSU Faculty Senate takes on firing of tenured professor

Source: WAFB Source: WAFB
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

The LSU Faculty Senate is taking on a bitter subject by examining how and why a former tenured professor was fired. 

"We felt an injustice was done," said alumni professor and Faculty Senate member Cecil Eubanks. "The abdication of tenure is a very serious matter. We don't believe it was done in a proper manner with due process or for appropriate reasons." 

At the center of the controversy is Dr. Teresa Buchanan. According to officials, she was fired from LSU, in spite of recommendations from a faculty review committee, over claims that she created a hostile learning environment and "consequent sexual harassment through the use of vulgar language."  

A faculty review committee did not find the allegations warranted Buchanan’s dismissal and only recommended that she be censured. The LSU Board of Supervisors, at the recommendation of LSU President F. King Alexander, fired Buchanan in June. 

Several faculty members feel the firing was uncalled for and disregards the university's own due process. 

"There are also, in the background, some academic freedom issues that is how far can a professor go in demonstrating a particular point or phenomenon, what kind of language can be used, what is it that is acceptable for demonstration," said Faculty Senate President Dr. Kevin Cope.

The Faculty Senate is now considering a resolution that would officially censure Alexander and others, condemning how the case was handled, and asking for a second chance for Buchanan. The resolution is sponsored by 15 members of the faculty.

However, Alexander read a prepared statement defending the decision. He said the case goes beyond the use of a few curse words and cuts to the heart of protecting students.  

"The behavior of the faculty member places the university at substantial risk," said Alexander. "A university that tolerates, inadequately addresses or is deliberately indifferent toward sexual harassment may be subject to loss of federal funds and/or may be liable for money damages under Title IX or The Civil Rights Act."

The Faculty Senate took no action at the Wednesday meeting, but the resolution will be addressed again at the next meeting in October. 

Meanwhile, a panel from the senate will continue to examine any evidence in the case.

Buchanan was not present for Wednesday's meeting.

Ernie Ballard, LSU Director of Media Relations, released a statement for the university in regards to a report by the American Association of University Professors: 

We see four major problems with the AAUP’s recent statement regarding LSU’s recent removal of a faculty member. The reported facts are wrong, the statement ignores and misinterprets federal and state law, it fails to follow the AAUP’s own statement of principles, and in the report, the AAUP ignores the interests and well-being of students.

Possessing only limited information pertaining to this issue, the AAUP should not advocate for the continuance of teaching practices that potentially violate university policy, state and federal law. The AAUP continues to diminish its relevance by violating its own Statement of Principles, which holds that: "University faculty, [A]s scholars and educational officers … should remember that the public may judge their professional institution by their utterances. Hence, they (faculty) should at all times exercise appropriate restraint, (and) should show respect for the opinions of others."  Creating a "hostile learning environment" not only potentially violates the student’s civil rights, but, importantly, it clearly violates the AAUP’s own fundamental tenets.   

The AAUP should reconsider its censure of universities that must abide by their own university policies, state law and federal law, which guarantee that our higher education students will have a safe intellectual learning environment. 

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