• October 26, 2014

AAUP Protests Louisiana State U.'s Plan to Lay Off 14 Language Instructors

The American Association of University Professors is urging Louisiana State University to abandon plans to lay off 14 foreign-language instructors in the middle of the current academic year.

The university informed the instructors last year that their appointments would be terminated this January for both budgetary and educational reasons. The university has resolved to stop offering majors in German and Latin and to otherwise scale back its foreign-language offerings as part of an effort to trim costs.

In a letter sent last week to the university's chancellor, Michael V. Martin, the associate secretary of the AAUP, B. Robert Kreiser, argued that nearly all of the instructors had worked at the university full time for at least seven years and therefore were entitled under the association's guidelines to be treated as if they had tenure and to receive due process before being terminated.

The letter says the AAUP appreciates that Louisiana State "has been faced with serious budgetary problems stemming from reduced state appropriations." It adds, however, that faculty members there have questioned whether the university's budget problems are as bad as claimed, and have complained that the university has decided to terminate faculty members without formally declaring financial exigency, seeking adequate faculty input in its layoff decisions, or exploring alternatives to termination or ways to relocate the instructors to other positions.

At a minimum, the letter says, the instructors should let the 14 faculty members remain in their positions until the end of the current academic year, when their job search will be easier.

Chancellor Martin told a local newspaper, The Advocate of Baton Rouge, that the university had followed its own tenure and termination guidelines, and that layoffs were necessary because the positions could not be eliminated through attrition.

The AAUP's effort to intervene on behalf of the 14 instructors comes at a time when it is investigating the university's handling of two high-profile academic-freedom disputes, involving Dominique Homberger, a biology professor who was removed from her classroom in April because administrators felt her students' grades were too low, and Ivor van Heerden, a former deputy director of LSU's hurricane center who says he lost his job in retaliation for his criticisms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Comments

1. wdabc - November 03, 2010 at 02:29 am

1. Regarding the 14 language professors, the layoffs should not proceed before the end of the year.
2. Regarding foreign language, if the objective is to prepare students for jobs then they need three languages: Arabic, Chinese and English.
3. Regarding Dominique Homberger, I say it is time we start firing teachers who give unrealistically high grades for their own personal gain.
4. Regarding Ivor van Heerden, if his criticisms were warranted, give hime a medal of honor. What is this Communist China?

2. egallagh - November 03, 2010 at 07:41 am

Re: wdabc's comment # 2:

Clearly, college is not meant to prepare students for jobs, but for life. Certainly Arabic and Chinese are worthy fields of study, but languages in the western tradition--German, French, Spanish, Italian, as well as Latin and Greek--are also, and perhaps particularly central to students' intellectual and personal development.

3. 3224243 - November 03, 2010 at 08:01 am

That's why you liberal arts/humanities types are such a joke. Whatever Latin and Greek are needed "for life" can be/is already incorporated into other non-language courses. German? Italian? Hah! Not unless you're planning to work in those countries. Spanish? Yes. It's almost to the point in the USA where you can't get a job unless you speak Spanish.

Wake up and join the "20th" century. Latin and Greek education aren't remotely relevant to the present students' intellectual and personal development.

4. nathanielcampbell - November 03, 2010 at 08:48 am

Re: 3224243
So it is useless for a student to discover that the love sickness under which he pines is nothing new, or that he can find solace in the brilliant love poetry of Catullus and Ovid? And what can a student of modern history make of the 20th century without understanding things like the Uebermensch or Jenseits von Guten und Boesen? When humanity limits its memory to the recent past, it loses its story, its way, its soul. The history of human thought cannot be swept aside as if it were yesterday's detritus; rather, it must be received and studied, for part of the key to humanity's future is its past.

And as for LSU...
They need to stop wasting money on the bacchic orgies that constitute "football game day". Rather than promote the basist tendencies of the human appetites, they should use their money to help humanity remember its nobler pursuits.

5. jsandr1 - November 03, 2010 at 09:52 am

You can follow the Foreign Language Fourteen at our website: www.flxiv.blogspot.com

6. eddocstudent - November 03, 2010 at 09:55 am

@nathanielcampbell

Actually, LSU is one of the few universities in the entire country where the football program actually makes money and contributes portions of it back to the school for academic uses. The football program sustains itself, just recently absorbed all costs for maintenance and running of the Academic Center for Student Athletes, and is projected to still have funds left over at the end of the current season that will contribute back to the university. In addition, that doesn't even take into account the publicity that having elite athletics programs (football, baseball, track have all won multiple national championships) brings to LSU. There are some students who go to LSU specifically for that reason. Without athletics, LSU would be in even worse financial shape than it currently is.

I suggest you become better informed before you criticize...

7. tappat - November 03, 2010 at 11:32 am

These sorts of events can make it easier for high school students and parents to determine which colleges to avoid. It's simple, avoid any college that does not have Latin. Go to a college that has Latin, and you increase your chances of being offered the intellectual environment appropriate for an education. For those who want training for that first job, then go to a college that doesn't have Latin, especially if it is "student centered" and relevant and the like. The percentage of tenured faculty at the college can be another simple metric to use: the higher the percentage of tenured faculty, the better the college, for an education. For training for that first job, perhaps tenured faculty aren't so necessary.

8. parsleylover - November 03, 2010 at 12:07 pm

So eddocstudent, we in Louisiana should feel that our educational programs are as good as they could possibly be, and that football is a useful recruitment tool, and thus LSU is vindicated in all efforts to become a better university? Please do not further denegrate the marginal quality of higher education in this state by making a successful football program an excuse for mediocrity in other areas. I was at LSU graduation in 2005 when mention of football succecss was more the cause of applause and focus of the commencement address than was the academic achievement of the grads. The citizens of Louisiana need an adjustment in their priorities if higher education here is to achieve any excellence. And by the way....I love football...and LSU football....but it will not advance the literacy and educational levels of our citizens.

9. drj50 - November 03, 2010 at 12:28 pm

@ parsleylover: eddocstudent did not suggest that "LSU is vindicated in all efforts to become a better university," but only that a previous poster was ill-informed when claiming that the university was "wasting money on the bacchic orgies."

eddocstudent made no claims about the overall quality of education at LSU or in the state of Louisiana and did not suggest that "a successful football program [was] an excuse for mediocrity in other areas." The only claims were that "Without athletics, LSU would be in even worse financial shape than it currently is" and that the previous poster should be better informed before launching criticism.

10. princeton67 - November 03, 2010 at 02:28 pm

The article doesn't have the one detail necessary to determine if the 14 instructors merit "tenure" status: namely, the specifics of their contracts. Did they sign a series of one-year contracts? Did those contracts state that LSU could terminate at its discretion? Was "tenure" - or equivalent bargaining status - ever mentioned in those contracts?
Was the word "adjunct" used? etc. etc.
Other germane questions are (1) Were any contractually similar Latin/German faculty kept? (2) Or any in other foreign languages?
(3) "nearly all" had worked seven years: what of those who didn't?
(4) any instructors with 2 or 3 years dismissed? Or kept on b/c paid less? etc. etc.
Remember: the same AAUP that is protesting now would, if tenured faculty were RIFF'ed before non-tenured, censure LSU, a much stronger measure.

11. parsleylover - November 03, 2010 at 05:34 pm

good questions princeton67, but the AAUP doesnt ask those pertinent questions....they merely believe that cash-strapped colleges and universities should make employment of faculty their primary mission. The AAUP's job as I see it is to make higher education a welfare system for any faculty member who claims they are entitled to lifetime employment or employment without regard for quality of performance.

12. jsandr1 - November 04, 2010 at 08:29 am

We have not made an issue of tenure. We do make an issue of contract law. We each signed a contract for an academic year (August - May) when we first arrived at LSU and a yearly continuation form is put into our files unsigned. The University remedied the "problem" of mid-year firings by using the letter of non-reappointment to extend 238 contracts from August 2009 to January 2011. There is no official continuation form in our files for August 2010 to January 2011. The other 224 faculty members have been continued through August 2011.

Three members of classics and one member with Italian were retained. The so-called criteria for keeping these instructors conflicts with the facts. The department was told that Spanish instructors could not be touched. Likewise, Chinese and Arabic instructors were not affected. French is rightly a separate entity at LSU and remains unaffected.

All of the instructors have been at LSU for at least 7 years (one was on the borderline, arriving in Fall 2003 so the letter came at 6.5 years into the contract). The most senior member has 24 years of service to the University and teaches the only language courses on campus specifically created to comply with the Americans with Disabilities act.

For more, see www.flxiv.blogspot.com

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