Louisiana State University is countering a tenured professor who says she was dismissed for using profanity in the classroom. In a statement sent to media outlets last night, LSU said Associate Professor Teresa Buchanan was let go for creating “a consistently hostile and abusive environment in the classroom.”

Buchanan has said she plans to sue the university, and commenting on anything that might involve potential litigation is unusual. LSU’s Media Relations director Ernie Ballard sent this last night, adding, “Please use the full statement, if possible, so parts are not taken out of context.”

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.

The press release doesn’t highlight specific incidents. But it’s easy to see why LSU felt the need to respond; besides numerous stories about Buchanan’s firing, the school was also sent a letter from the American Association of University Professors, written by Jordan Kurland, their Associate General Secretary.

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The AAUP says they’ve examined the documentation of the faculty hearing Buchanan underwent, which says that while she used “profanity, poorly worded jokes, and occasionally sexually explicit jokes in her teaching methodologies,” there was no evidence that she directed this behavior “against any particular individual, only that some individuals who observed the behavior were disturbed by it.”

The AAUP has already said they’ve set up a legal defense fund for Buchanan, and the letter strongly suggests they’ll file suit on her behalf. They call her language “not only run-of-the-mill these days for much of the academic community but is also protected conduct under principles of academic freedom.”

On Facebook, Buchanan reacted to LSU’s statement:

LSU just issued a horrible statement saying I verbally abused, harassed, and intimidated students. Which isn’t true. LSU’s “evidence” consisted of anonymous student evaluations and statements taken out of context. Some people don’t like me. I was tough and I had very high expectations of my students and low tolerance of poor teaching. That doesn’t change the fact that i was good at my job (which did not include “be popular and sweet.”) It also doesn’t change these facts: 1) I was given no due process; no opportunity to remediate and no counseling; 2) I had 19 years of satisfactory job performance ratings; 3) LSU did not follow their own policies; 4) I was given teaching awards during that same timeframe and recommended for promotion immediately before this happened.


Contact the author at anna.merlan@jezebel.com.

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Image via Flickr/Brad Armentor