Tulane AAUP Chapter Response

The following paragraphs are excerpted from the minutes of the Tulane University Senate of September, 2006. The response is written by the president of the Tulane AAUP chapter, Linda Carroll. Professor Carroll is also a senator and was prevented from attending the September Senate meeting by her attendance at a conference hosted by the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. For that reason, according to parliamentary procedure, the account of events given here could not be entered into the Senate minutes, although the October minutes will reflect her statement that her records differ from President Cowen's account on various points. The differences are given here noted in this type. General Secretary Roger Bowen provided details in a telephone call with Prof. Carroll that occurred on October 8, 2006; various of the details also appear in the minutes of the chapter and state conference forums that General Secretary Bowen attended in March and April, 2006 and in the AAUP-Tulane correspondence.

minutes: The AAUP Inquiry.

Professor Purrington raised the issue of the AAUP inquiry taking place in New Orleans. He asked whether the president could clarify or qualify the remarks he made to the faculty of the School of Science and Engineering. President Cowen said he was going to address that issue at the end of the meeting, but since it was brought up, he would address it immediately.

The president said that, as most were aware, there had been a number of contacts between the AAUP and his office. In discussing those contacts, he wished to distinguish two issues. The first was that in his long time in the academy he had always respected the AAUP's championing of academic freedom and shared governance. He saw those as "noble goals" that distinguished the academy from all other endeavors. The president said he understood how, after what the university went through, there would be questions, especially about shared governance. But his real difference with the AAUP was on the issue of how they handled the whole Katrina situation.

President Cowen said that about two days before he announced the renewal plan, he called the secretary general of AAUP. He was the only university president in Mississippi or Louisiana to call the AAUP. He told the secretary general that the renewal plan would involve separation of faculty, including tenured faculty. He offered to meet with the secretary general after the plan was announced to discuss how he had done what he did and to answer any questions. The president said that the secretary general promised he would do that.

response: According to General Secretary Roger Bowen, President Cowen's telephone call did not include an offer to meet with the AAUP.

minutes: Then, in early February, the president received the first of what are now 13 letters. The letter had a number of allegations in it. The letter was widely distributed. In fact, the president said, it was in the hands of the newspaper before he saw a copy of it. "I have not received a phone call from Secretary Bowen, with the exception of a call to my assistant in late spring to inform me that the AAUP investigative committee wanted to meet with me on August 29 or 30," President Cowen said.

response:

The AAUP's first letter is dated January 26, 2006 and was faxed to President Cowen's office; General Secretary Roger Bowen stated that he called President Cowen before the letter was faxed. Not reaching him, he left a message.

minutes: Senator Aksoy interjected that she recalled one time when the AAUP was here and sought a meeting with the president but were turned down.

President Cowen said that Senator Aksoy's statement was inaccurate. He said that Senator Carroll, who chairs the local AAUP chapter, wrote him to say that Roger Bowen was going to be here and would he meet with him. President Cowen replied that he would be delighted to meet with him if it were possible. The president looked at his calendar and saw that he had a prior commitment to be in New York, so he could not meet with the secretary general. The president noted that Senator Carroll could verify the sequence of events if she were present. He said, "That was the only time Bowen reached out to me that I recall."

response: Linda Carroll, then secretary of the Tulane AAUP chapter and the Louisiana Conference and regional delegate to the National Council, contacted President Cowen on February 24 to invite him to meet with General Secretary Bowen during Bowen's visit to New Orleans on March 8. President Cowen's initial response, of the same date, was that he would be pleased to if he were available. On March 2, Becky Desporte wrote to say that President Cowen would be in Washington on the date of Roger Bowen's visit and therefore unable to meet. In his October telephone call with Prof. Carroll, General Secretary Bowen affirmed his willingness to meet with President Cowen at any place and at any time. This invitation was communicated to President Cowen at the October Senate meeting. To date there has been no response.

minutes: Since that time, the president said, he had responded to a series of letters in great detail. The most recent was about three weeks before this meeting. About six weeks before the meeting, he was notified that the AAUP would send a review team to New Orleans on August 29 and 30 and wished to meet with him then. He wrote back and told them he would be unable to meet with them on the anniversary of Katrina. They have corresponded back and forth, and the president said he has tried to be as responsive as he could be. Whether he would meet with them in the future, the president said, depends on the draft of their report. After seeing the report, he'll decide whether it is in the university's best interest for him to meet with them.

response: When President Cowen turned down the AAUP invitation to meet in late August, the AAUP responded by offering to meet with him on any date convenient to him. Noting that the system presidents and chancellors of the affected state institutions had had a productive meeting with the committee, the AAUP letter, dated September 1, states, "Again, I ask on behalf of the Special Committee that you agree to a meeting so that we can have an enhanced understanding of your position on our key concerns before we arrive at a draft text that has been approved for circulation among the principal parties with an invitation for their corrections and comments. Do let us work out a suitable date."

... minutes: President Cowen said that his office has responded and will continue to respond to the AAUP with substantive comments. But he also said, "Philosophically, I believe that the AAUP has not handled this properly." They have not understood the unprecedented nature of the event. Instead, he said, they have treated the case like all of their other cases over the last 80 years. They didn't reach out to those who reached out to them to sit down and have conversation. Now, he said, they want to do it when the university is going through its internal review processes that make it much more difficult for the administration to talk with them. Still, the president insisted that he would continue to respond to them in an open and transparent way and that he had not eliminated the possibility of meeting with them in the future.

response: The correspondence between the university and the AAUP will bear out that the AAUP has made every effort to understand and work within the exceptional circumstances resulting from Hurricane Katrina. President Cowen's reiteration that he invited the AAUP to meet with him requires a reiteration of General Secretary Bowen's statement that no such invitation occurred. There is no reference to such an offer in any of the correspondence. The only written evidence of invitations to meet are of the repeated offers made by the AAUP at the local and national level, none of which has been accepted.