LSU Faculty To Unionize?

The question mark is still there, I suppose, but I read this story with great interest this morning:

November 29, 2009

Frustrated Faculty at Louisiana State U. May Form Union

A Faculty Uprising Stirs at Louisiana State U. 1

Ivor van Heerden, a hurricane researcher at Louisiana State U., has accused the university of firing him for political reasons related to his criticism of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which supplies grant money to the university.

By Peter Schmidt

Like coastal residents waiting out a hurricane, many faculty members at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge feel buffeted by forces beyond their control. In recent years, they have suffered reductions in their retirement benefits, faced threats of program cuts and furloughs, and watched their administration both move to reorganize academic programs with little faculty input and fire a prominent scholar without any stated justification.

That scholar, Ivor van Heerden, who has been deputy director of a university center that studies hurricanes, was poised last week to file a lawsuit alleging that the university refused to renew his contract for political reasons, because he had been blaming the levees designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a major source of the university’s federal grant money, for much of the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. van Heerden’s lawsuit may be among the least of the university administration’s worries. Faculty leaders there are citing his termination—as well as a other administrative actions they regard as infringing upon shared governance, academic freedom, and various workplace rights—in pushing their fellow faculty members to organize into some sort of union to push back.

A committee formed by the university’s Faculty Senate to examine unionization has released a report arguing that the organization of a collective-bargaining unit “may be the most effective way” to empower the faculty and protect its rights. Based on the committee’s recommendations, the Faculty Senate plans to hold a series of forums this winter to discuss how faculty members might organize for bargaining purposes and to try to build support among them for such a move.

Read the rest of the story here.