In a step below “the dog ate my homework”, LSU offered the Court this excuse for Igor van Heerden’s pending unemployment:
LSU officials said in their court-filed response this week that van Heerden has not been fired, but added that his research contract will not be renewed when it expires May 21.
The LSU response also denied that “van Heerden’s criticism of the Corps or speech on any other matter was a substantial or motivating factor in the decision not to renew his employment.”
A vocal critic of the Army Corps of Engineers, van Heerden sued the LSU system in February. He alleged he is being forced out of his job because of his argument that the Corps’ levees in New Orleans had design flaws that caused their failure during Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 surge across the city…
LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said Wednesday that LSU officials will not comment while the lawsuit is pending….
This week, the nearly 50,000-member American Association of University Professors notified LSU that it will establish a committee to investigate the school’s action against van Heerden, former deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center.
Editilla had more on the AAUP story, too.
In a strongly worded letter, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has alerted Michael Martin, Chancellor of Louisiana State University (LSU) that, in its opinion, the firing of Professor Ivor van Heerden “raises significant issues of academic freedom, tenure and due process.”
Two months ago, van Heerden, the former deputy director of the Louisiana State University (LSU) Hurricane Center filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in state court against the flagship university.
Van Heerden alleged that LSU officials waged a campaign of retaliatory harassment for his criticism of the federal Army Corps of Engineers. Louisiana State University receives large federal grants from the Corps.
Apparently Chancellor Martin had ignored previously written letters to his office setting forth AAUP’s concerns regarding actions taken by LSU administration to terminate the services of Dr. van Heerden.
The most recent letter dated April 5, 2010 puts LSU on alert that the AAUP shall “establish an ad hoc committee composed of persons who have had no previous involvement with the particular matter, to conduct its own full inquiry without prejudgement of any kind.” (Hat tip to the Editilla at the New Orleans Ladder for posting this information first.)
When the professor announced his intention to sue LSU, he was flanked by big name supporters including John Barry (author Rising Tide), Harry Shearer (actor, filmmaker), Oliver Houck (Tulane University law professor), Mtangulizi Sanyika (African American Leadership Project), and Jed Horne (author Breach of Faith).
At the time, few media reports mentioned this significant show of support. This ad hoc investigation now shows, yet again, that Ivor van Heerden is far from alone on this journey to find out the truth about Ivor van Heerden’s firing.
The Levees.org piece on Huff-Po had this link to another Advocate story on van Heerden with several interesting comments from van Heerden’s attorney:
Van Heerden, the former deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center, sued the university and four administrators in February. He alleged that his LSU career is ending because he blamed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for problems with New Orleans levees that collapsed after Hurricane Katrina struck the city in 2005.
“I think what has happened to my client is appalling,” van Heerden attorney Jill L. Craft said Friday. “My hope is that he gets to stay in his position at least until after trial of this case.
“This whole situation has cast a black eye on LSU and the state of Louisiana,” Craft added. “All my client did was tell the truth about what happened during Katrina. Because he told the truth, he’s been fired.”
But the researcher has not been fired, LSU said in its court-filed response this week. His contract simply is not being renewed…
“Defendants deny that van Heerden’s criticism of the corps or speech on any other matter was a substantial or motivating factor in the decision not to renew his employment,” the LSU response states.
Van Heerden has alleged that he was stripped of most meaningful research duties last year. And he maintains that LSU officials took action against him out of fear of losing federal funds because of his criticism of the corps of engineers.
LSU officials denied in their court-filed response that the corps “was historically an important funding source for the (College of Engineering) and other components of LSU.”
Two years before Katrina hit, van Heerden told an audience of state, local and federal officials in New Orleans that a direct hit by a hurricane could sink the city.
The devastation, he said, would be as great as that caused by Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, Fla., in 1992.
“The threat of storm surge gets worse and worse every year,” van Heerden said in 2003. “That’s the reality. We’re kind of sitting on a ticking time bomb,” in New Orleans.
Tick, tick, tick, it’s almost Hurricane season.