A Message from the President
April 12, 2012 - Campus Update on AAUP Report
As shared in my September 28, 2011, email message to the campus ( A Message from the President), the AAUP conducted an “investigation” of the termination of three tenured faculty stemming from the discontinuance of Southeastern’s French and French Education degree programs. The AAUP has shared its resulting report with the press and others, and I wanted to apprise the campus community of this development.
While I recognize the AAUP’s role is to support the position of the tenured faculty whom the organization represents, I am disappointed that its “investigation” team chose to disregard publicly available facts and information regarding this matter. In fact, a multitude of errors have been documented in the AAUP report. In addition to the numerous errors in the report, perhaps most disappointing is the magnitude of the disconnect between the AAUP and current reality.
The depth and breadth of the economic challenges experienced by so many in our state and country have been unprecedented. Public institutions of higher education are not immune to these conditions and have suffered extraordinary reductions in state financial support.
Over the last few years, Southeastern has grappled with reductions of more than $25 million in our State appropriation. Although these staggering reductions represent nearly one-third of our State funds, we have remained committed to sustaining our core academic programs. These financial circumstances forced us to eliminate over 200 faculty and staff positions; yet to date, only three tenured faculty members have lost their positions, following a one year notification period. Of these three, two retired and one remains employed at the university in a different position.
Our determination to protect Southeastern’s core academic programs and the associated 300+ tenured and tenure-track faculty has been a driving factor behind many difficult and unpopular decisions, including the elimination of degree programs whose cost of operation is not supported by a reasonable level of enrollment and degree productivity.
Despite assertions to the contrary by the AAUP and others, the candid reality is that Southeastern’s former French and French Education programs together averaged only 14.6 majors over the last five years, producing an average 2.2 annual graduates. This is well below the threshold ultimately established by the Louisiana Board of Regents as acceptable for sustaining academic programs.
It became clear very quickly in our discussion with the AAUP “investigation” team that their underlying position was that no academic program should be eliminated except by recommendation of the faculty of that program. It is unlikely any group, faculty or otherwise, would arrive at a conclusion that would result in their personal detriment. This is exactly why we engaged in such an objective process to prioritize academic programs - a process based on carefully developed and widely agreed upon prioritization criteria in combination with verified quantitative and qualitative data for each program.
Again, despite assertions to the contrary by the AAUP, the program prioritization criteria we used were developed with extensive involvement by faculty and students. Likewise, every department provided quantitative and qualitative data to address the criteria. Through multiple communications to every faculty and staff member, the entire campus was kept apprised of the evaluation criteria, data, process and results.
The AAUP report addresses program actions at several University of Louisiana System campuses, including Southeastern. Accordingly, we worked in concert with the System Office in responding to the AAUP. The System response, along with related correspondence and other information is available on the University of Louisiana System web site at http://www.ulsystem.edu/AAUP.
Southeastern is a critical part of our region and State, impacting thousands of students and their families. Our institution must continue to evolve in order to ensure its survival and relevance.
As has been my position since our institution began dealing with reductions in our State funds several years ago, I am firmly convinced we must maintain our focus on the success of our students. In addition, I remain committed to engaging all of our faculty and staff in dialogue and collaborative processes that help inform decisions which allow us to sustain the healthy operations of our most vital and vibrant programs.