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

November 02, 2010

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.