Covering Louisiana

Apr 13, 2012 11:40 AM by AP

UL system, professors' association in war of words

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An association of college professors is highly critical of faculty layoffs, losses of tenure and other job changes at two University of Louisiana institutions in 2010, but UL System officials are defending their actions with a website that includes an extensive critique of the association's report.

The Internet war of words began with the release Thursday of the report by the American Association of University Professors. It deals with the effects of budget cuts and discontinued programs on 21 faculty members at Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana universities. It questions whether due process was given to faculty members in 2010 and accuses school officials of giving scant notice to those affected by changes and shutdowns of programs.

The report said principles established by the AAUP were violated. And it alleged that the UL system violated its own policies.

In a news release, UL System President Randy Moffett said the AAUP report was "deeply flawed" for a number of reasons. Moffett said the universities followed the policies in Louisiana law and those developed by the system Board of Supervisors.

"While many of our Board rules and policies related to faculty are based on AAUP's principles of academic freedom and tenure established in 1940, our rules have evolved over time with appropriate constituent input and approval," Moffett said in the release.

Accompanying that release was a link to a website aimed at refuting the AAUP claims. The site includes links to correspondence between UL officials and the AAUP. And it links to a copy of the AAUP report complete with pop-up notes that dispute numerous points - from years when policies regarding financial cutbacks were adopted and the specific wording of system polices to the effects on faculty.

For instance, the AAUP report states at one point: "By the time the Northwestern State fiscal year ended in June 2010, the administration had discontinued a total of twenty-five programs, minors, and concentrations spanning three colleges, and the Association has identified sixteen tenured faculty members whose appointments were terminated with one year's notice as a result of the program discontinuances."

The electronic annotation added on the UL website: "Twelve tenured faculty were released. Two accepted instructor positions on campus. Three were reassigned to other disciplines for which they were qualified and where a position was open and existed from a vacancy. These faculty have since applied for and been granted tenure."

Another criticism regarding Northwestern was that faculty members told AAUP that they and their colleagues were not told how a Program Review Committee that played a role in the cuts and job changes was formed.

"This is not true," the UL's popup annotation asserts. It said Provost Lisa Abney shared information about the committee in faculty forums. "The initial sub-committee representation in Summer 2009 was selected based upon recommendations from Academic Deans," it said.

While most of the affected jobs were at Northwestern, the AAUP report also dealt with the elimination of majors in French and French Education at Southeastern, which resulted in the loss of three tenured positions. UL disputed several of the assertions in the AAUP report, including details on enrollment figures in French classes.

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