National group to probe LSU’s firing of professor – Ivor van Heerden

By JORDAN BLUM
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
April 8, 2010
 
A national college faculty organization is starting an investigation into LSU’s termination last year of Ivor van Heerden, one of the leading critics of federal engineers before and after Hurricane Katrina.

The American Association of University Professors wrote LSU Chancellor Michael Martin this week announcing the group is forming an investigatory committee to look into last year’s termination of van Heerden, the former deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center,

In February, van Heerden, a coastal scientist, sued LSU, alleging he was unfairly fired because he blamed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for most of the flooding of New Orleans that occurred in the wake of Katrina in 2005. The letter to LSU by AAUP Associate Secretary B. Robert Kreiser concludes, “This matter raises significant issues of academic freedom, tenure and due process.”

AAUP is a nearly 50,000-member organization of faculty and other academics focused on ensuring academic freedom.

Van Heerden led the “Team Louisiana” levee inspection after Katrina. He also wrote “The Storm,” in which he alleged the corps made “serious engineering mistakes that caused multiple breaches in the system of levees that were supposed to protect New Orleans against hurricane-related flooding,” his suit says.

In February, Martin issued a statement arguing, “Although the decision not to renew Ivor van Heerden’s contract was made before I came to LSU, I have carefully reviewed the process that led to that decision and am confident that the process was handled appropriately.”

LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said  Wednesday that LSU officials will have no further comment while the litigation is pending.

While van Heerden claimed he was fired because LSU officials sought to silence him, he also has said his firing might have been related to litigation against the corps over flooding caused by the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet.

2theadvocate.com

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