An associate professor with tenure at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge says she’s been fired for using profanity in class, including saying “fuck no” and referring to cowardly behavior as “being a pussy.” She was fired in June, accused of violating the school’s sexual harassment policy. Oh boy. If that’s sexual harassment, we’re all fucking fired.
According to The Advocate, Teresa Buchanan was accused of using profanity and making what seem like very tame sexual jokes, including, as she recalled it to the Advocate, one that warned female students not to count too much on their boyfriends after the first couple years: “In the beginning of a relationship, while the sex is good, your partner will do anything he can to help you. After two or three years, don’t count on him coming out.”
Buchanan, who teaches early childhood education and founded a training program for elementary school teachers, hasn’t taught since December 2013. Her dean removed her from class due to “inappropriate statements”; she was fired in June of this year after LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander urged the LSU Board of Supervisors to let her go. A committee of fellow faculty members previously recommended in March that she be allowed to keep her job if she stopped using naughty words.
According to the Advocate, though, Alexander seemed determined to see her out the door, sending a letter to the board that outlined some of the committee’s findings. The letter implied that she’d violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, an allegation the committee had investigated and found to be unsubstantiated:
In an April 2 letter to Buchanan, Alexander pointed to the committee’s finding that she had engaged in sexual harassment but didn’t mention that the committee had recommended censure, not termination.
The chancellor also cited an allegation that Buchanan had violated a student’s rights under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, an allegation the committee had rejected as “not substantiated by testimony.”
Kevin Cope, president of LSU’s Faculty Senate, said Alexander’s dismissal of the faculty’s judgments in Buchanan’s case is disturbing, but part of a larger problem at many universities, not just LSU.
“Once it goes to the president, there is no constraint on what the president can do,” Cope said.
No students testified in person against Buchanan at either hearing; the reports seem to indicate that the “concerns” about her behavior came from fellow teachers.
Buchanan told the Advocate she will sue the university, calling the investigation a “witch hunt” and adding, “The occasional use of profanity is not sexual harassment. Nor is the occasional frank discussion of issues related to sexuality, particularly when done in the context of teaching specific issues related to sexuality.” She told LSU student paper The Daily Reveille that her comments fell well within the bounds of free speech. She told Libertarian blog Reason, “If the curriculum is fucking awful, I might say that it is. I’m not teaching Sunday school.”
Buchanan only has a few ratings on a professor-grading website called Koofers, none of which mention her supposedly disruptive and pedagogically inappropriate cussing.
On the day of her dismissal, Buchanan announced on Facebook that the American Association of University Professors had set up a legal fund for her.
Correction: An earlier version of this post used a tweet we believed was from an LSU student; he’s not, and the tweet has been removed. I regret the error.
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