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

This isn't about academic freedom, says 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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