The administration does not feel that discussions are necessary, considering that “practically [speaking], the censure has had no impact on Tulane.”
-- Michael Strecker, Director
Tulane Public Relations

Censure removal stalls
AAUP attempts to open dialogue with university
January 30, 2009

Faculty renewed discussions on the American Association of University Professors' censure of Tulane at December's University Senate meeting. The AAUP censured Tulane June 9, 2007 because of the school's firing practices after Katrina, and the censure still stands.

The university did not provide adequate evidence of financial exigency, fired faculty members instead of finding other places for them in the university, did not seem to distinguish between tenured and non-tenured professors in the firing process and split off the School of Science and Engineering without faculty input, according to the AAUP report.

"The AAUP has a set of standards for what you do in a state of financial exigency," said Linda Carroll, at-large-senator for the University Senate, member of the President's Faculty Advisory Committee and regional delegate to the AAUP National Council. "They did not find that Tulane met those standards or that they provided evidence of financial exigency."

Tulane disagrees with the AAUP's report.

"The AAUP's report, on which the June 9 vote to censure was based, is a deeply flawed, factually inaccurate document riddled with erroneous information and contradictions that do not support its own conclusions or AAUP doctrine," Tulane Public Relations Director Michael Strecker said.

In response to the AAUP report, the university asserted that the report was wrong and that Tulane had corrected errors in the report prior to censuring.

"Among the corrections, Tulane noted that it provided to grievant faculty and to the review bodies detailed information on the University's decision to declare financial exigency," according to Tulane University's Response to the AAUP Web site Statement Regarding Censure of Tulane University. "Moreover, to the extent AAUP's censure of Tulane was based on doubt whether there was financial exigency, that doubt is preposterous to those who have lived through Katrina and its aftermath."

The response continues, saying that Tulane's firing practices "were consistent with University Senate-approved policy" and that "the University retained faculty programs critical to Tulane's teaching, research and service missions."

Despite Tulane's response to the report and the censure, the censure still stands today.

Several Gulf Coast universities faced AAUP scrutiny and censure after Katrina, including University of New Orleans, Southern University at New Orleans and Loyola University New Orleans.

"They looked at New Orleans universities that had undertaken quite significant changes after Katrina without the faculty playing a really significant role in those changes," Carroll said.

Since the censure, Tulane has been listed in the back of the AAUP's monthly journal as the most recently censured university. The Senate has recently shown curiosity about Tulane's place in AAUP's journal.

"The president in December was asked by Senator Dan Purrington whether he had been in contact with the AAUP, which censured Tulane," University Senate Secretary James Mackin said. "President Cowen replied that his office has not been in contact with the AAUP."

The AAUP has requested Tulane's cooperation in resolving the issues brought up in their report, Strecker said.

"When Cowen was asked if there had been ongoing communication, he said no, which is strictly true, because the university has chosen not to engage in responsive communication," Carroll said. "An effort has been made on the AAUP side, but that has not been met by substantive response."

Tulane has chosen not to communicate with the AAUP because the administration does not feel that the censure was justified in the first place, Strecker said.

"There is no need to have further settlement discussions with the AAUP," he said. "The AAUP was in error in censuring the Tulane administration; therefore, they should now rescind it. The university is taking no direct action with respect to responding to the AAUP."

At the last Senate meeting, the university faculty passed measures to take in case of future, similar emergencies.

"It's a very important development," Carroll said. "It's a good moment to be in dialogue with the AAUP because these procedures might put it in a better position to have the censure lifted."

The new measures include a larger role for faculty and a larger, more positive value on a professor's tenured status.

"The AAUP saw the way the vote went as a move in the right direction to potentially let up the sanctions," said Ross Kelley, Undergraduate Student Government vice president for student life. "This organization keeps saying, 'Let's talk about this, this should get dealt with,' and the administration refused to get in touch with them. The organization contacted the vice-chair of the senate, but the administration basically put them on a gag order."

The administration does not feel that discussions are necessary, considering that "practically [speaking], the censure has had no impact on Tulane," Strecker said.

He cited "the many highly-sought faculty members who have joined Tulane since AAUP's censure" and the fact that "student applications to Tulane have steadily risen since the censure and are now at an all-time high" as evidence that the censure is irrelevant to Tulane's success and reputation.

The Senate, however, will hear more about the censure and Tulane's relation with the AAUP at their next meeting.

"I plan to raise this in the February Senate meeting, because it's important for people to know that the AAUP has reached out to us," Carroll said. "They are not out to censure universities. What the AAUP really wants is for faculty to share in the governance of the university and for the university to have respect for the accorded status of tenure."

The University Senate next meets Monday.

Copyright 2009, Hullabaloo

Opinion of the Hullabaloo: Something is rotten in the state of Gibson
January 30, 2009

In June 2007, the American Association of University Professors placed Tulane and three other New Orleans universities under censure for their actions following Hurricane Katrina. The AAUP is a professional organization composed of national university faculty that works to advocate academic freedom and shared governance in higher education.

According to the AAUP's Web site, 47 colleges and universities remain under censure, dating back to 1963. An AAUP censure is not punitive, and it is not meant to permanently stain the record of a school; they are directed toward a university's present administration. A censure is meant to communicate to the public that the AAUP has found fault with current conditions of either tenure or academic freedom at the institution.

The 2007 censure of Tulane was issued after Tulane fired more than 160 faculty members, including 54 tenured professors, with the enactment of the post-Katrina Renewal Plan and a declaration of a "state of financial exigency."

In response to the censure, the administration expressed their displeasure with the report, claiming that it was inaccurate and erroneous.

Since Tulane's initial response, the AAUP has made repeated efforts to reach out to the university's current administration, but the university has chosen not to respond. Tulane says that the report was unfounded, and therefore not worth discussing.

When asked if his office had been in communication with the AAUP, President Scott Cowen told the University Senate "no." Though this is technically true (in that his office has not responded to the AAUP), it was misleading and implied that the AAUP had not reached out to Tulane.

Just because the administration does not agree with the substance of the AAUP report does not give Gibson the justification to ignore it. As a school that seems to place such a heavy emphasis on rankings and improvement, it seems Tulane would do its best to clear its name and work with the AAUP.

Tulane cited "big name" additions to Tulane's faculty, including James Carville, the political analyst; Nicholas Spitzer, folklorist and producer of "American Routes;" and Tom Sancton, noted author, journalist and jazz musician, as proof of the report's irrelevance.

As impressive as these names look and sound in Tulane's marketing materials, the number of students able to take classes with these professors is small.

Reasons for Tulane to work with AAUP to remove the censure, however, extend beyond reputation. This is about respect: respect for Tulane's faculty.

The university's firing practices after Katrina were seen as a major power grab by the administration. Rumors that they went after vocal "thorns in their sides" when deciding which professors to fire put the remaining faculty in a state of fear, limiting their willingness to speak out when they feel mistreated.

That's what the AAUP is for: To be a voice for faculty when they either can't speak, or an administration won't listen.

Tulane's faculty and the AAUP are not asking the administration for much. They want Cowen's office to talk to AAUP and see if the censure can be lifted. Recent measures passed in University Senate about future faculty involvement in emergency situations would likely persuade the AAUP of Tulane's renewed commitment to its tenured faculty.

The AAUP is not out to get Tulane; it is simply trying to protect the freedom and rights of university faculty.

Is that something that Cowen's office really wants to be on the record as opposing?

Copyright 2009, Hullabaloo

On June 12, 2007, AAUP issued a press release in which it censured Tulane and three other New Orleans area universities (see PDF).  The previous month, AAUP released the final report of its Special Committee (see PDF), which determined that Tulane's severe cuts to faculty and academic programs were not attributed to financial exigency.

From: The Hullabaloo, January 30, 2009,, accessed 02/02/09.  Comment in framed sidebar is that of Tulanelink.  The Hullabaloo is a student-run newspaper at Tulane University.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.