Sex

LSU Defends Termination of Prof Who Swore in Class: 'Verbal Abuse, Harassment'

This isn't about academic freedom, says LSU.

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LSU
Nicholas Larchet

Louisiana State University has broken its silence regarding Teresa Buchanan, the associate professor who recently lost her job after LSU President F. King Alexander fired her for inappropriate classroom behavior.

In interviews with Reason and The Advocate, Buchanan gave details about said behavior: she swore in class, told jokes, and didn't shy away from talking about sex. She told me, "If the curriculum is fucking awful, I might say that it is. I'm not teaching Sunday school."

I can understand asking Buchanan to dial things back if she was making a lot of students uncomfortable. But she wasn't just reprimanded—she was fired, after an 18-month sexual harassment investigation.

Still, LSU officials say they did the right thing. They sent me the following statement, which they asked me to quote in full:

Recent news reports about the termination of one of LSU's professors have not been entirely factual. Teresa Buchanan was not terminated due to isolated incidents. LSU has documented evidence of a history of inappropriate behavior that included verbal abuse, intimidation and harassment of our students.

LSU has been concerned about this matter for quite some time, and after complaints from students and educational providers, we took the appropriate steps, including removing her from the classroom since December 2013. In addition to LSU's own findings, a review by her faculty peers found that Dr. Buchanan violated policies regarding student harassment.

Dr. Buchanan created a consistently hostile and abusive environment in the classroom. Additionally, she was asked not to return to more than one elementary school in the Baton Rouge area within the last three years because of her inappropriate behavior. Based upon this consistent pattern of hostile and abusive behavior that negatively impacted LSU students, we believed it was necessary to terminate her employment. 

LSU does not normally comment on matters that involve potential litigation, but we believe it's important to state the facts in order to correct some misperceptions regarding this issue. This case is not about the rights of tenured professors or academic freedom, as some of the press have reported. LSU had an obligation to take action on this matter. We take our responsibility to protect students from abusive behavior very seriously, and we will vigorously defend our students' rights to a harassment-free educational environment.

Buchanan disputed the statement's characterization of her actions and wondered whether LSU was trying to scare her away from taking legal action.

"They're making it sound like I'm some horrible off-the-wall creep," she told Reason.

She also criticized LSU's contention that academic freedom has nothing to do with the situation.

"I think their understanding of academic freedom and the faculty's understanding are two different things," she said.

For now, she's still weighing her legal options.

Readers familiar with the the federal government's draconian campus sexual harassment policies won't be surprised that a professor was treated this way. The Education Department's Title IX push is eroding faculty rights in service of greater emotional comfort for students, and little can be done unless someone stands up to OCR.

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  1. Maybe she wasn’t well liked by the administration and she gave them an excuse to rid them of her.

    1. Sooo… Exactly what tenure is supposed to prevent. I’m glad to know that “its not about tenure” is a magic phrase. Also, “This isn’t about the union’s contract dispute” and similarly, “this had nothing to do with sex, so please leave me off that sex offenders list.”

      1. You sure don’t understand tenure.

  2. LSU does not normally comment on matters that involve potential litigation, but we believe it’s important to state the facts in order to correct some misperceptions regarding this issue.

    And the facts are what, exactly? Give a single instance of actual abuse or intimidation and I might believe you.

    1. I had the same reaction. Their statement doesn’t provide any facts. Statements like she “created a consistently hostile and abusive environment in the classroom” is a conclusion that can be drawn from facts, not fact itself.

    2. she was asked not to return to more than one elementary school in the Baton Rouge area within the last three years because of her inappropriate behavior.

      I guess we are supposed to try and infer what that means?

      1. Yeah, and my inference is that I don’t trust a public elementary school administrator even as much as I trust a university administrator.

      2. It isn’t particularly difficult, to say the least.

    3. Exactly. Not much of a defense. “Trust us, we had good reasons.”

  3. On the plus side, now that tenure is sead, everyone should re-entoll in college and accuse their statist loving professors of the same. Fuck it, let’s burn it down and start over.

  4. Here’s the real nugget:

    Additionally, she was asked not to return to more than one elementary school in the Baton Rouge area within the last three years because of her inappropriate behavior.

    Was she scouting prospects because middle school and high school students are too obstreperous?

    1. I want to know the exact number so I have something to shoot for when my kids hit grade school.

  5. “LSU has documented evidence of a history of inappropriate behavior that included verbal abuse, intimidation and harassment of our students.”

    So it seems like she should be fired, after repeating events. If i did that at my job I doubt I would be given generous multiple warnings.

    Why or were is this a problem?
    “Based upon this consistent pattern of hostile and abusive behavior that negatively impacted LSU students, we believed it was necessary to terminate her employment. ”

    Again, if this is not a reason to be fired from a position in a proffessional environment, than what would a reason be?

    1. They may well be justified in firing her, but simply *saying* there was a pattern of hostile and abusive behavior doesn’t really give us enough information to decide if they were justified or not. We don’t know the specific behaviors they claim were hostile or abusive. LSU’s definition of hostile or abusive might be very different from what you expect it to be.

      1. Considering it’s a personnel matter, I’m not surprised they are not publicizing details (confidentiality and all that). We don’t have the right to know. OTOH, if Prof. Buchanan wanted to say what the alleged infractions were, we could make a judgement as to whether or not they were justified.

  6. Based on this article, the University is either very justified in the firing, or flagrantly lying, and open to a lawsuit from the fired Professor. If she is aggrieved enough to discuss this with Reason, would Reason please ask her what in the world is there to consider? The more she “considers (what could there possibly be, if she is telling the truth?),” the lest honest she appears.

    1. Based on this article, the University is either very justified in the firing, or flagrantly lying, and open to a lawsuit from the fired Professor.

      Why should an employer need to justify their decision? She used “fuck” and “pussy” repeatedly in classes on early childhood education in a fairly conservative state. That may not bother you, but it obviously bothered the people she was teaching and the people responsible determining the curriculum.

  7. Seems to me that the LSU administration is very uptight. I recommend some LSD.

  8. If LSU wants to enforce its policy against swearing in the classroom (I’m sure they have one; virtually all colleges did until recently, and likely still do), well, I think that’s kinda lame, but its not really what I’d call a violation of academic freedom (where the idea is to promote the free exchange of actual ideas, as opposed to one’s right to say “fuck” in every third sentence).

    However, I strongly suspect that’s not really what was going on in this case. I read LSU’s statement above, and nowhere in it, is there any real explanation of what she did to get fired (just a lot of vague stuff that sounds like they’re trying to imply she’s somes sort of bad person). If they had a good reason to fire her, I strongly suspect they’d do more than allude to some opaque insinuations that such a reason might exist. My guess is, she offended some narcissistic Tumblrette, and apparently you’re not allowed to teach at LSU, if anyone who self-identifies as “gender fluid,”* decides you may have once looked at them cross-eyed.

    *Or whatever the applicable foolishnes was in this instance. Perhaps her accuser identified as Squirrel-kin?

  9. If a elementary school teacher is accused of sexually abusing students, they’re sent to “rubber rooms” and paid to do nonsensical work.

    If a college professor creates a hostile working environment, she gets fired after a cursory investigation.

    How does tenure work in this country?

    1. How does tenure work in this country?

      The extent of tenure is based on the size, goals, and political power of the public sector union representing you.

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  11. As an LSU student, why the heck hasn’t anyone gotten any commentary from her students? I was not personally one of her students but many of my friends were and they have all expressed somewhere in the range from grief to outrage that she was fired. I have yet to find anyone who felt uncomfortable in her classes.

  12. She said the university is trying to dictate how she teaches

    Well, yes, that’s what an employer who is an educational institution is supposed to do.

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