Teresa Buchanan, welcome to the club. You’re in good company.
First it was Steven Hatfield. Next was Ivor van Heerden.
Then, in rapid-fire order came Drs. Fred Cerise and Roxanne Townsend followed by Raymond Lamonica and John Lombardi. The message, in no uncertain terms, was toe the line or clean out your desk.
And on Thursday (Jan. 21), The Daily Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, apparently cratered to pressure from a state representative’s wife and killed an insightful column by senior political science major Michael Beyer—all because Beyer has the unmitigated gall to offer up a critical column of State Rep. Neil Abrabson’s torpedoing of Rep. Walt Leger’s election as Speaker of the House. Beyer’s online column may have been figuratively spiked by LSU, but thanks to Lamar White’s CenLamar blog, we’re able to link to it here: http://cenlamar.com/2016/01/20/speaking-truth-to-power-lsu-student-responds-to-state-rep-neil-abramson/
No wonder LSU hired Joe Alleva as athletic director. When the Duke lacrosse players were falsely accused of rape, he promptly suspended the remainder of the lacrosse team’s season before DNA test results were known and fired its coach—after DNA tests came back negative.
This is the same Joe Alleva who was forced to eat crow in the now-he’s-fired, now-he’s-our-coach Les Miles debacle back in November. Washington Post columnist John Feinstein (a Duke alumnus) said Alleva was “a pleasant man whose next original idea would be his first.”
Not to dump on Alleva too much, but his track record at Duke and LSU is pretty much the poster child for the LSU personnel handbook and HR policy. The Duke debacle was so bad that after the three players were cleared and their accuser exposed as a liar, prosecutor Michael Nifong was disbarred for dishonesty and ethics violations related to the case.
Let’s review that honor roll of rolled heads cited earlier.
- Jesse H. Cutrer and Carl Corbin: LSU Reveille editor Cutrer of Kentwood and assistant editor Corbin were expelled and five others suspended when they refused to knuckle under to U.S. Sen. Huey Long way back in 1934. The issue was a letter to the editor by a sophomore student not even on the Reveille staff. The letter was critical of Long’s naming a star LSU football player to the state senate. Twenty-two other students who were suspended were reinstated and the seven who left LSU were all invited to the prestigious University of Missouri Journalism School, paid for in part by LSU board member J.Y. Fauntleroy of New Orleans. The man who executed the firings was LSU president James Monroe Smith, who later went to prison on corruption charges.
- Steven J. Hatfill: Hired on July 1, 2002, Hatfill was placed on paid leave a month later after FBI agents conducted a search of his apartment in Frederick, Maryland on live TV—complete with helicopters circling overhead. His crime? He was suspected of being involved in anthrax mailings. Though he was familiar with the effects of anthrax, his area of expertise was Ebola and his job at LSU was training emergency personnel to respond to terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Saying LSU was making no judgment as to Hatfill’s guilt or innocence and that the decision “was not reached quickly or easily,” Chancellor Mark Emmert promptly fired Hatfill before his first day on the job. Hatfill was subsequently found innocent and six years later he was paid $4.6 million by the U.S. Department of Justice as settlement of his lawsuit. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/28/washington/28hatfill.html?_r=0
- Dominique Homberger: The biology professor wasn’t fired but was removed from teaching in April 2010 for setting too high a standard for her students. She eschewed grading on a curve, insisting instead that her students achieve mastery of the subject matter instead of simply more mastery than the worst students in the class. In short, she refused to dumb down her course material. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/04/15/lsu
- Ivor van Heerden: van Heerden was fired by LSU in May of 2010 after he had the temerity to criticize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ levee and floodwall construction designs. He also built storm-surge models, one of which predicted major flooding in St. Bernard Parish, eastern New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward. Apparently the LSU administration did not care much for accuracy. He was also stripped of his title as deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/ivor_van_heerden_who_pointed_f.html
- John Lombardi: The LSU system president was cut loose in April of 2012 because he didn’t go along with Bobby Jindal’s programs, including the privatization of the LSU medical centers. He also publicly opposed other initiatives advanced by Jindal. The firing was done by vote of the LSU Board of Supervisors, all of whom were appointed by Jindal. The board had a reputation of subservience to Jindal as expressed by board member Alvin Kimble of Baton Rouge. “We are laying a lot of blame on the wrong person,” he said. “It needs to be laid at the legislature’s feet and the governor’s feet. You guys (fellow board members) are doing what you have been instructed to do. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/04/lsu_board_fires_system_preside.html
- Drs. Fred Cerise and Roxanne Townsend: Two of the LSU Health System’s premier physicians, Cerise and Townsend were axed in September 2012 following a July meeting at which former Secretary of Health and Hospitals Alan Levine pitched a plan to privatize the state’s system of LSU medical centers. Cerise and Townsend made the mistake of expressing reservations about Levine’s proposal. But Bobby Jindal wanted the privatization done and he passed the word down the Board of Supervisors and two of Louisiana’s best doctors were gone. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/08/21/cerise-townsend-firing-came-soon-after-fateful-2012-levine-meeting-with-lsu-officials-to-discuss-lsumc-privatization/
- Raymond Lamonica: The LSU System general counsel resigned under pressure as chief legal advisor to the university. He also was on the wrong side of Jindal. http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2012/09/lsu_general_counsel_resigns_wi.html
As, apparently, was Teresa Buchanan. But she is fighting back. Like those Duke lacrosse players, the tenured associate professor of 19 years’ experience is determined to clear her name. She hopes to get her job back as well—and she has some big guns on her side. http://theadvocate.com/news/14637878-123/report-fired-lsu-professor-plans-to-file-lawsuit-against-school-for-violating-free-speech-rights
In her federal lawsuit filed Wednesday (Jan. 20) in U.S. Middle District Court in Baton Rouge, she is represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE, based in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., has been around only since 2014. Already, however, it has negotiated favorable settlements in eight of 11 actions brought on behalf of students and faculty at colleges and universities in several states.
In firing Buchanan last June, LSU claimed her teaching methods violated sexual harassment policy for her occasional use of profanity and sexual language in preparing her students to become effective teachers, FIRE said in its press release Thursday.
“LSU’s policy mirrors the language of the ‘blueprint’ sexual harassment policy propagated by the U.S. Department of Education and Justice in 2013. FIRE and other civil liberties advocates have warned this controversial language threatens the free speech and academic freedom rights of faculty and students.
“FIRE predicted that universities would silence and punish faculty by using the Department of Education’s unconstitutional definition of sexual harassment—and that’s exactly what happened at LSU,” it said. “Now Teresa is fighting back to protect her rights and the rights of her colleagues.”
She was fired despite unanimous support from the LSU faculty senate which approved a resolution urged the university’s administration to reconsider its decision to terminate her. That resolution was ignored. Last September, the American Association of University Professors formally censured the LSU administration.
“You will not find another person who loves LSU more than I do,” she said at her press conference on Thursday. “I come from a line of LSU people on both sides of my family and I received two of my degrees from there.”
She said in firing her, the LSU administration “violated LSU’s promises of free speech and academic freedom for its faculty.
FREE said Buchanan “prepared her student teachers for the real-world rigors of working with children and parents from diverse communities. For this, LSU fired her. The LSU faculty senate and the American Association of University Professors have censured the LSU administration for its action. We think a federal court will likewise find its actions unacceptable.”